When a group of seven people first gathered together in 1998 to have a Bible study, the last thing on their minds was a full-fledged ministry that ministered to hundreds of college students each week.
Over the course of the last 15 years, that Bible study has grown into what is now The Well, an independent student organization at East Tennessee State University. It’s a ministry that reaches anywhere from 700 to 900 students from the Tri-Cities region on a weekly basis.
Looking back at the beginning of The Well, Director of Ministry James McNeill said God obviously had more in store for them than just a small, weekly Bible study.
“We never really tried to start a ministry. We just started asking God to draw our friends to themselves and over the course of that time, the Lord gave us a great opportunity as students continued to come know Christ and grow in faith,” he said.
The non-denominational campus ministry meets on Wednesday nights at 9 at Grace Fellowship Church, 2314 S. Greenwood Drive. The new semester kicked off this week.
McNeill said The Well has a three-fold purpose of winning students to Christ, building them in their relationship with him and sending students out into the world.
While McNeill has been a part of the ministry since it began, he said its growth is not based on the work of any one person. He believes the ministry has been able to grow and mature because of a higher power that’s at work in everyone’s lives.
“People ask all the time how you do The Well and the easiest way to explain what has happened is the Lord has just really blessed us and he has done the work,” McNeill said. “As students have been engaged and been with us throughout the years, they have been like an unbroken chain of believers on this campus that continue to connect to students that were a part throughout the years and continue to share the gospel with their generation.”
With college being such an important part of a person’s life, The Well strives to be engaged with students from the day they step foot on campus. Being a partner in that journey is one of most important and rewarding aspects of the entire ministry, according to McNeill.
“I really believe that student ministry is the place to have maximum impact, because students are deciding what their lives are going to be lived for,” he said. “It’s a real blessing to get to work alongside of the students and to be in their lives as they’re deciding what their lives are going to be about.”
And The Well isn’t just geared to students at ETSU. The ministry is there for any college student in the Tri-Cities.
“Our vision is that every student in the Tri-Cities would have the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus and respond to the gospel,” McNeill said.
In addition to the weekly gatherings at Grace Fellowship, The Well offers small groups, outreach programs and leadership and discipleship opportunities throughout the week.
For more on The Well, visit www.thewellsite.org or www.facebook.com/thewellsite.