In four short years the Shore Christian Church went from 75 parishioners to upwards of 400.
In a time when churches are merging and sometimes closing their doors permanently the Shore Christian Church is thriving and growing.
The Memorial United Methodist Church in Neptune City closed its doors after 100 years. The First United Methodist Church in Bradley Beach, which has been closed, has been sold to the borough.
Shore Christian Church officials say they believe their parishioners welcome the diversity at services as well as the lack of a dress code.
The church, which holds services in the House of Independents, on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, recently added another service to its Sunday lineup bringing the number to three.
The 70-minute services are held at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Pastor Isaac Friedel, took over the ministry from his father Dewey, who died in 2016.
Dewey Friedel was the pastor of the Shore Christian Center in Wall Township for many years.
Before taking over the younger Friedel ran the Jersey Shore Dream Center out of Neptune, which provides vital supplies to poor families including diapers for babies.
After his father died he was asked by the congregation to become the lead pastor.
The parishioners of the Shore Christian Church are mostly Millennials, 30 and under, and holding services in the House of Independents is a good fit for the church.
Friedel said the House of Independents “fits us.”
“People have an aversion to walking into church like with your parents,” he said.
Another aspect that younger people might find appealing is the lack of dress code.
In fact Pastor Friedel, 35, who was wearing ripped jeans, a Tillie tee shirt said, “I would wear this (to lead the service).”
Many of the young people, he said, end up bringing their parents along so seniors are represented as well.
Because they don’t have a church of their own yet, mid week Bible readings are held in peoples’ homes.
There are several diverse groups that meet including women, men, and even a group of runners who take a run and then meet to discuss the past week’s sermon.
The church will sponsor a float in the Asbury Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 8.
They will be throwing basketballs out to kids in celebration of March Madness, as well as candy.
There will be music on the float provided by musical director Nicole Tillman who has a Broadway background.
The 70-minute weekly service includes 20 minutes of uplifting, inspirational music, followed by the general greeting when participants acknowledge and introduce themselves to one another.
Then Friedel gives his sermon, sometimes with illustrations.
One week the topic had a Broadway theme with “Phantom of the Opera” and the lead character’s wearing of a mask to hide his pain.
Friedel uses Bible passages to relate to today’s audience.
The most recent theme leading up to Easter is the last seven words spoken by Jesus.
Friedel believes that the church’s appeal and growth is due to the modern feel of the services.
One word Friedel says best describes his ministry – diversity.
“It’s a good reflection of Asbury Park,” he said.
There are many who are Jewish, Catholic and other religious affiliations, said Marketing Director Gary Bickham, who has been a member for several years after volunteering at the Jersey Shore Dream Center in 2010.
Several have families with eight babies being born to parishioners in the past two months.
Bickham also said the church has people of all financial situations.
“We have doctors, lawyers, pediatricians, the homeless, car mechanics and plumbers,” Bickham said.
A building fund for the church was started two years ago and Bickham and Friedel have been searching for their own church building.
One thing for certain is they want to stay in the greater Asbury Park area.
Friedel said there are buildings available in farther surrounding towns but he is not interested.
“We have been called to this area for this city,” he said. “It serves the needs of this city, it’s where we founded the Dream Center.”
Currently each Sunday Friedel estimates 350 to 400 people attend the three services.
On Easter he is expecting a total of 600 to 700.
“Easter is going to be massive services,” he said.
At Christmas time they held an all day service at the Paramount Theater, but that is not available due to the city’s annual Easter Parade.
Parking, which is difficult to find downtown, is made available for free by the church at the 601 Bangs Ave. parking garage.