A York County congregation got more than an hour of hymns and sermons one Sunday a few months ago.

The pastor of Lancaster County Bible Church in Springettsbury Township, in collaboration with 27 other churches in eight states and three countries, challenged his parishioners to an "impulse give."

By the time folks left church that day, they'd donated nearly $30,000 to two schools in the York City School District.

That money will go to Devers and Ferguson K-8 schools to buy needed materials and beautify the schools' environment.

Paul Atkinson, pastor of the York LCBC at 951 North Hills Road, presented the donation and explained its origin to the district's school board Wednesday. He received a standing ovation.

"We greatly appreciate what you have done," Superintendent Eric Holmes said.

Atkinson said the generosity challenge is known as the "Be Rich" campaign.

Together, the 28 churches raised $5.2 million. All of the money was donated to benefit local communities.

Atkinson said he decided to funnel his congregation's donation to the York City School District after learning of its financial recovery plan.

No one except church leaders knew about the challenge before that Sunday service, Atkinson said.

He asked the congregation to consider the amount of money they spend on impulse buys -- like packs of gum and cans of soda at convenience stores -- and instead impulsively give $39.95 to the district.

"We made it very clear, not a dime of this goes to our church," the pastor said. "It will all be given away."

Atkinson said he met with the schools' principals to identify areas of need before the challenge was announced.

Volunteers from the church will use some of the money to buy materials for beautification projects at each school. At Devers, volunteers already painted a library and several hallways.

"We just tried to brighten it up," Atkinson said.

At Ferguson this spring, volunteers will do some landscaping work.

Some of the money will also be used for winter coats, scholarships and travel expenses for eighth-graders who want to visit college campuses, Atkinson said.

Atkinson said he hopes the generosity project will continue through more volunteer work at the schools in the future.

"Our church is new in the community, and we're looking for great opportunities to partner and connect," he said.

-- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.