Shoreline City Church is a diverse non-denominational Christian church in the heart of 75218. The church moved to 10715 Garland Road in 2015, and quickly grew to its current estimated 2,500 – 3,000 members. For more information about the history of the church, including plans to expand to the Bishop Arts neighborhood in Dallas and a campus ministry at SMU, see the church’s website: http://shorelinecity.church/
For this project, we were interested in what draws people to Shoreline, who is coming to the church, and strengths and challenges that church members and leadership encounter. We tried to capture what the Shoreline community thinks of their church by interviewing a wide array of Shoreline attendees. Those interviewed ranged in age from 19-65 years old, came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and about half of those interviewed held leadership positions in “Connect Groups” at Shoreline, small groups of members that meet outside of regular services. In addition, we spoke to church leadership about challenges and opportunities they see in the 75218 area.
What attracted you to Shoreline and how did you hear about it?
Many of those interviewed first heard about Shoreline from somebody who had already been attending the church. In many cases these were friends and family, but in other instances new neighbors or school tutors extended the invitation. After hearing about the church from its current members, the “loving and energetic” nature of the church inspired first-time attendance. Only one person in our large sample group came to Shoreline without an explicit invitation from somebody already attending the church: she was simply driving by and “thought the building looked inviting!”
Describe your first experience at Shoreline and how it compares to the church environment you grew up in.
Every person interviewed had only positive things to say about their first Shoreline experiences, and some even described the experience as “mind blowing” or likening it to “Heaven on Earth.” From the waving parking lot staff to the friendly greeters pointing newcomers to the coffee bar, Shoreline goes above and beyond to make everybody feel welcome in their church. This hospitality does not go unnoticed by first-time attendees, who are drawn back to the church after being exposed to such a welcoming atmosphere.
Because of the church’s diversity, there was no group consensus as to how Shoreline’s church environment compares to the environments of other churches they had attended. Some of those interviewed grew up attending non-denominational churches similar to Shoreline, and others grew up in Catholic or Episcopal communities; however, regardless of the religious environment they grew up in, all of those interviewed agreed that the close-knit community of Shoreline was “special.” It is large enough to welcome people from all walks of life, but intimate enough to eliminate the feeling of being lost in the crowd that many larger institutions struggle to combat.
“It was simple, but something incredibly unique – it was all about Him, about Jesus and our individual pursuits to live in His glory and share His love with one another.”
“My first experience at Shoreline was mind blowing.”
Why do you attend Shoreline? What do you see as its strengths?
Of the nearly 20 people interviewed from Shoreline, every one of them answered this question by referring to the “loving community” at the church. Some went on to further characterize the Shoreline community as “Christ-centered,” or “diverse and accepting.” All of those interviewed indicated that the community at Shoreline was more like family than anything else. Unlike many other churches they had been in, there is a feeling of “oneness” between the “lay” congregation and the staff. This interconnectedness allows even new members to feel like valuable components of the Shoreline community.
Creating such a welcoming community is a difficult task. But, as one Connect Group leader put it, when you seek to “love people like Christ,” the incredible atmosphere is simply a byproduct. Shoreline encourages its members to display “Christlike,” “radical love” to everybody they come into contact with, and it is this love that is the cornerstone of the Shoreline community. From our interviews, Shoreline’s greatest strength is without a doubt “the love that everybody has for each other.”
“I feel inspired here; the people are just really on-fire for Jesus. Everyone is so friendly and in such a genuine way. The pastors are real, and no one is trying to be ‘holier than thou.’ They share their stories of when they’ve messed up in life and how they grew from these mistakes. And their creed does a great job of emphasizing that we don’t have to earn our way to God; he already loves us!”
“When you make Shoreline your home church, you don’t become a member, you become an owner. You impact the community and you get involved. I admire how that is prevalent throughout the church.”
“They have prayed for me, mentored me, consoled me, celebrated with me and cried with me – my church is truly my family.”
What are Shoreline’s advantages in trying to reach new attendees?
“The greeters and ushers are incredibly welcoming; they make you feel included, like this isn’t your first time at the church. You can show up at any service and get something out of it. You don’t have to worry about catching up on a sermon series, but can jump right in without needing any background information. I also think Shoreline’s location is great for attracting new church-goers–they’re right off a main road and hold up lots of signs every Sunday!”
“Shoreline targets college students and goes to the campuses. They are able to make sure that college kids have a strong Biblical basis. They can reach different audiences because they reach people who do not think they fit in at a traditional church.”
“They have a college night every week on SMU’s campus. The church makes itself accessible by going to the campus and, therefore, Shoreline makes itself easy to attend. They also have campus ambassadors and are present on social media.”
How does Shoreline stand out from other nondenominational churches in Dallas?
“I like that Shoreline is a bigger church, because I feel like I can meet people here, but its size does not make it overwhelming. It was so easy to get plugged-in! With other larger churches that I have visited, their size made the experience impersonal. I felt like I couldn’t really get connected. However, within a week of my first visit to Shoreline, I received an email, phone call, and text asking me about my experience and trying to get me connected with various groups of the church.”
“Pastor Earl knows his audience. Since they moved from Austin, they had to feel their audience. This means that Pastor Earl is aware of the congregation being mostly young in age and so he tailors his messages appropriately.”
“Their intentionality and community. Shoreline has a strong support system and the pastor is ready and willing to speak with anyone who attends. So many people are on a first name basis with Pastor Earl and know his family well.”
The significant majority of those interviewed seemed to be entirely supportive of Shoreline’s interpretation of “church.” They appreciated the departure from the more traditional, liturgical interpretation of “church” and believed that this modern style of church “allows more people to connect with Jesus.”
What qualifies as “church clothing” at Shoreline differs significantly from the traditional definition – mainly due to the utter lack of dress code at the church. Much of the young church can be seen sporting “trendy clothing” to church on Sunday mornings, but Shoreline makes it clear, as one member put it, that “no matter what you look like, you can feel at home at Shoreline.”
Shoreline’s community seems to be made up of, almost exclusively, young people and young families; perhaps because they are more receptive to the church’s modern interpretation of “church.” Shoreline makes excellent use of modern technology, both inside and outside of its “sanctuary.” Despite their love for the church’s modernity, many of those interviewed wanted to make clear that Shoreline’s technology, contemporary music, and/or clothing choices should not be what defines it. Instead, the sole purpose of these modern features is to reach more people and share with them the love of Jesus.
What are some strengths of the church?
“The pastors! They love each and every person who walks through the doors of the church. They live by the law they preach and it is always about Him.”
“The church is great at making people feel like anyone can attend–you don’t have to do any ‘pre-clean-up’ work before coming to Shoreline. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve strayed, because He will always welcome you back. Anyone can ‘come as they are,’ and God will use your story for good.”
“The diversity of the congregation was something I found particularly encouraging. You have people from all walks of life and of all ages attending Shoreline!”
“I attend Shoreline because I love what the church stands for. It is diverse in all of the senses of the word (Race, Age, Style, Spiritual Journey).”
“It’s for everyone no matter your age, race, gender, or sexuality! Shoreline Dallas is the most loving church you will find!”
What are some challenges you have seen in the church?
“Shoreline is very modern which may turn people off. Modernity can be a strength but it can also be a weakness. Some people think that women are not supposed to be pastors so seeing a woman in a pastoral role may cause them to not trust her as much as a male pastor. With their modernity, comes straying from traditional ways. I have seen in Pastor Earl’s sermons that he may not go deep enough or rely heavily enough on what the Bible says.”
“In the church’s zeal, is has lost sight of the subtle teachings of the Bible. For example, teaching about sexual immorality, reverence toward the Word of God, and the New Commandment through Jesus. As for Pastor Earl, he is a fantastic speaker, but on some occasions, his messages can become overly theatrical”
“Since Shoreline is a newer church, it refrains from calling out sin by name, like many modern churches. This seems to be the new norm, outside of traditional churches. However, it is an important part of sermons that, I believe, if left out, will leave members not feeling convicted, which is a vital part of growing in one’s faith.”
Views from Leadership
Why did you choose Shoreline to be your home church?
“The love, the community and the way it has changed my life being a part of a healthy church.” – Tyler Scott, Project Manager
How does Shoreline stand out from other Dallas Nondenominational churches?
“It is healthy, real, diverse, and truly life-giving.”
– Tyler Scott, Project Manager
“There is no formula—the leaders at Shoreline want everyone to experience the love of God. We love everyone the same, regardless of where they are with God, and ultimately we want to have a church that looks like Heaven….to be ‘as it is in heaven.’” -Jon Youngblood, Executive Pastor
What are other strengths of the church?
“The pastors are real and they love people deeply.” – Tyler Scott, Project Manager
“We realize that only God can change somebody’s life, and it’s our role to love people throughout the whole process.” -Jon Youngblood, Executive Pastor
Do you think having the young congregation that Shoreline has is a strength? Why or why not?
“Yes!! Young people are the next generation and they empower change in our society and future world!” – Tyler Scott, Project Manager
“At one point in the early stages, probably half of our congregation was SMU students. This is definitely a strength, because the church learns a lot from them, as much as they do from the church.” -Jon Youngblood, Executive Pastor
What is a challenge that Shoreline has yet to overcome?
“Keeping up with growth.” – Tyler Scott, Project Manager
“It was easy to please everyone when our congregation was just 17 people. Now that we around 3,000 members, we realize that we can’t make everyone happy, but we can show everyone the same love.” -Jon Youngblood, Executive Pastor
What other areas did Shoreline consider for planting their church and what brought the church here?
“They considered starting the church in Portland. Shoreline ended up here because God called us specifically to Dallas! No true reason. We feel Dallas was the place.” – Tyler Scott, Project Manager
How does Shoreline’s leadership differ from the other churches and how has this affected the church for the better or worse?
“We have an incredibly healthy leadership team, starting from our pastors at the top. No “church politics”. Being on the team is being part of the family. It is good soil and a healthy place to grow!” – Tyler Scott, Project Manager
Conclusion and Analysis
Though a newcomer to the 75218 area, Shoreline City Church appears to be a vibrant addition, especially serving younger people from within the zip code and beyond it. The church utilizes modern approaches – services that are live-streamed, contemporary music, a casual atmosphere, and an emphasis on individuality – to create a Christianity that is welcoming and exciting for many. We anticipate further growth, especially as the area is becoming wealthier (see the updated History of 75218 section of this website), and younger as millennials with young families are moving into the zip code and replacing the generation that initially settled in what was a suburb of urban Dallas the 1950s and 1960s. We also note the willingness of the church to root itself in the local area, as evidenced by the church’s serving of coffee produced by a local roaster and other interactions with local people and businesses.