1st Time Church Review: Calvary UMC, York, Pennsylvania

For those of you that don’t know – my wife Tyra, our two youngest boys (we have six) and myself have embarked on a year long RV trip to see the United States! We will be working and going to school “online” and experiencing the great history and culture and great lands that God has blessed us with. Each Sunday we will visit a different church and blog about our experience as “first time visitors”.  We will share our experiences to hopefully benefit the church and any church who reads the blog post to learn about positive and negative experiences and how you might address these in your own church.



Well I am sorry to say this but we chose this church because in our opinion and for some of our friends it was the worst of the five we asked them to rate last week.

Interestingly some of our friends liked it the best. I guess there is something to be said for the very traditional plain look. But one of my dear friends said he actually went to the website and started digging for more info for the first time visitor and he didn’t really find any so he changed his vote 🙂

I want to visit this church today to see the contrast between last weeks church with a great website and great welcoming. 

Here is what happened. 

Well we didn’t even get into the church and someone noticed our TEXAS license plate and asked if we’re visiting and showed us to the Contemporary service.  Nice! The church building was beautiful. Looked old and historic. 

Once we found the worship space we found the one thing our boys have been looking for for the past five weeks! Donuts!  And they were good too!  Churches, if you want to win over the kids this is an easy way!

People continued to come by and welcome us. We ended up being pretty early. The website said service started at 10:15 but this was the first Sunday they were changing to 10:45 and they had not updated the website. (I know a good firm that can help keep your website updated)!  At least we were not late!

People kept coming up and meeting us asking if we were the family from Texas :). Word was spreading. That first woman did a great job of alerting others to come and greet us. Great job! We felt quite welcomed.  The senior Pastor even came by to Welcome us and started telling us about all the things going on in their church.

They are right in the midst of a merger with St. Paul UMC. There are two other startup churches from two other denominations who are also using space in this church. They have an Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous groups that meet here and every Wednesday night they do a big free supper where all are welcome. I get the feeling they serve those in need during that supper and apparently get like 50 or 60 showing up.  Sad thing was that none of this was on their website.  This church is ALIVE, but the website looks old, musty and dead.

Wow. We hadn’t even started worship yet and already I was very impressed by how this church is living out their faith to those in need and even other Christians!

A thought occurred to me. Why do we see startup churches in schools (at least back in Texas). Why don’t we as churches adopt them and allow them to worship and meet in our buildings? Hmm. 

So the service was great. Very simple. We sang two or three songs. Pastor read the verse and preached a very hard passage. He made it work for his congregation in the midst of their merger.

Here are a few nuggets from his Sermon:

When a congregation reclaims its connection between worship and mission it renews its life. 

He also talked about inviting people to church – that one of the big complaints is “I’m not perfect”, he likes to tell people to come to church anyway and he will sit with them in the “not perfect” section.  Made me think we should label EVERY PEW / SEAT that way in our churches!  Cool!

It was a very powerful and meaningful worship. Great, well known contemporary worship songs that even the kids knew. The atmosphere wasn’t very conducive to being “spiritual”, but that didn’t stop God’s Holy Spirit from showing up!  So I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on the “decorations”, but I do know it is important to people because when we re-built our sanctuary at our home church (Lake Cities UMC) it seems to have made a difference in people “sticking” and joining our church.

What I loved about our experience at this church:

  • We were welcomed in the parking lot!
  • Donuts!
  • Worship was great!
  • We probably felt the most welcomed that we had in all of our church visits.  Unfortunately if you read my blog post from last week, we probably never would have made it to this church had we been looking for a church because the Calvary website was so bad.
  • The first person that met us spread the word to others to come meet us.
  • The pastor came and greeted us and talked up his church.
  • The associate pastor greeted us and talked up her church.
  • The pastor made a huge point of mentioning the YOUTH and I could see he was involved with them.  They are the future of our church guys, they are the most important ministry we have CHURCH!

What could have been better:

  • Better worship space
  • Updated website with correct times on it, mobile responsive, photos to show the character of the church, etc – well, a whole new website so that you have an opportunity to have more people experience all the great things God is doing in your church 🙂

What do you think?  Email me your thoughts – patrick@www.churchbuzz.org

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