For a year, The Well Springfield Church of the Nazarene operated out of north-side banquet space at the DoubleTree Hotel. Every weekend was setup and tear down, and organizers lived out of Panera Bread and Kingdom Coffee.

The church since has grown its congregation to an average of 200 people per Sunday from 30 when its first service was held in February 2016. Co-pastors Selena Freeman and Dylan Robinson say word-of-mouth and social media are key to boosting the organization’s fellowship, two-thirds of which are 28 years old or younger.

“That was the demographic that God called us to,” says Freeman.

In addition to working in ministry together, Robinson is godson to Freeman and her husband Michael.

Leaders of the nonprofit church plant were led to secure a permanent home, and their congregation gave them the means to do so. Services started Feb. 26 at downtown’s College Station.

During the past year, the church generated $230,000 through tithes, Freeman says, noting members are asked to give 10 percent of their income in line with traditional biblical teachings. Tithes make up The Well’s operating budget.

“We based our budget on the hopes of bringing in $15,000 a month,” she says, noting tithes the past year ranged from $12,000 to $32,000 per month.

Woman at the well
A former addict of drugs and alcohol who had a rough family life, Robinson was never into church until he met the Freemans at a youth event.

From there, he got to know the couple when Selena Freeman served as a youth minister at the Marshfield Church of the Nazarene. The couple became Robinson’s godparents, and he eventually moved in with them before going to school at James River Leadership College, an affiliate of Evangel University.

“That was the first home that I lived in that there was no drugs or fighting,” says Robinson, who went on to work as a youth pastor at the Pittsburg Church of the Nazarene in Kansas, before co-founding The Well. “I just felt this overwhelming love that I’d never experienced before.”

Creating that sense of home is central to The Well.

An ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene who continues to live in Marshfield, Freeman says the church gets its name from John 4:13-14. The Bible passage references a woman who meets Jesus at a well in the ancient city of Samaria. According to the co-pastors’ interpretation, the encounter equates to inclusivity.

“Our whole story has been the story of the well,” Robinson adds.

Explaining the text, Freeman says Jesus approached the woman despite the fact she was a Samaritan. At the time, Jews including Jesus and his disciples were at odds with Samaritans, specifically related to the chosen place to worship God. Jesus told the woman the place of worship doesn’t matter so much as the act itself, according to scripture.

“Through his grace, he filled her with life-giving water and then freed her to go and tell the story,” Freeman says, noting the passage was the inspiration for The Well’s slogan. “It’s a place for all people where you’ll be found, filled and freed.”

The Well’s belief system ties to that of the 2.5 million members in the international Church of the Nazarene, including the tenet that entire sanctification, or Christian perfection, can be achieved on earth, among others.

“We believe that a church is like a home,” Freeman says. “People can become aware of the love of Christ.”

Called downtown
Freeman and Robinson, along with The Well’s nine-member board of directors, felt Springfield’s urban core fits well with the demographics of its young congregation. It also allows the organization to be closer to young adults, families and the homeless, including youths at the Rare Breed, who may want to learn about the church’s teachings.

Approved as a plant by the Joplin District Church of the Nazarene and the international general board, The Well is among some 120 Nazarene churches in its district and four others in Springfield, the co-pastors say. It joins 550 congregations of all denominations throughout Greene and Christian counties, according to research by Missouri State and Drury universities in the fall.

At 420 W. College St., Ste. 116, The Well leases over 8,000 square feet from College Station developer Scott Tillman. The exterior of the church, which has the look of a storefront in a mixed-use development, is a bit deceptive. The space stretches deep into College Station underneath the development’s parking garage. A large common area greats visitors, with an on-site children’s area to the side and a 250-seat auditorium in the rear.

Paul Tillman, Scott’s son and property manager of College Station and other Tillman-owned developments, says The Well nearly filled the remaining space at the $12 million, 135,000-square-foot development started in 2008. About 4,700 square feet on the northeast side of College Station adjacent to The Well and across from the Regal movie theater is all that’s left, he says.

“We ideally want that to be restaurant space,” says Tillman, noting there currently are no leads.

Speaking to College Station’s most recent tenant, Tillman says The Well organizers were easy going throughout the process that initially involved 6,700 square feet but later expanded.

“We were a little bit behind schedule on that job,” he says. “They’ve been very gracious and forgiving.”