What Does Coffee Have to Do with Discipleship?
If you happen to be wandering through downtown Boston one day, consider stopping at The Well Coffee House, located on the Freedom Trail beside the Old State House. According to one Yelp reviewer, its coffee is “easily the best in Boston,” and you may just happen to see a barista from Sattler College working the counter. The Well not only serves a great coffee, it also serves the community by supporting local nonprofits and by acting as a center for connections, conversations, and Bible studies.
According to manager Matt Love, The Well is the brainchild of a California restaurant owner, Kevin Scott, who left his catering business for full-time ministry. Nine years ago, he and a core group that included Matt and Julie Love moved to Boston and began the Church of the Well.
Why Boston? Although Matt likes to tell people it was all decided at a Yankee versus Red Sox match (the Red Sox won), in reality, “We did a lot of prayer and a lot of waiting on the Lord to open up the right doors, and it seems as we started going forward on it, this was definitely the place to be.” The team made the final move to Boston in August 2011.
From the beginning, they envisioned a business that would function as a non-profit coffee shop while providing a job and mission field for the pastoral staff and other members of the church community. They planned to serve coffee six days a week and use the building as a meeting house for the church on Sundays. “One of the hard things we see about churches in the city is that five or six days a week they’re pretty much vacant,” says Matt. “Our goal is that our church will be occupied all the time, not just with church members but with the unreached community, drawing them to the well.”
For that reason, they use as their theme verse John 4:14, taken from the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Sometimes you can invite a person a thousand times to a church and they’ll never come,” says Matt. A coffee shop is a safe space—a third space—where people can sit down for a cup of coffee, chat with someone, build a relationship, have a business meeting, and share the gospel. The Well currently has three different locations in Boston and is working on the fourth and largest of their buildings, which will serve as the final location for their church.
Each month, The Well showcases a local nonprofit and—although their giving encompasses more than just that one—all their advertising and publicity for the month focuses on the highlighted organization. People love buying the Well’s coffee, knowing the money they spend will benefit the whole community. Instead of keeping a tip jar on the counter, The Well keeps a donation jar. “The ultimate vision,” says Matt, “is not only for us, the church, to redeem the church for Jesus, but also to redeem business and redeem relationships, all for the glory of Jesus.”
Besides partnering with local nonprofits and allowing people to give to their community by making purchases, The Well also provides a place for Christians to minister to others. Those who are employed or who volunteer on a regular basis get to know the customers and have multiple opportunities to reach out, to care, and to pray with people in need. “Sometimes it’s right in your face where someone is crying, or they’re in pain and you go, ‘Can I pray for you?’” says Matt. “[Those are the] opportunities we look for.”
Like Jesus, who broke down many barriers in a single conversation with the woman at the well, baristas at The Well use the safe “third space” of the coffee shop and their own growing relationships with customers to break down barriers to sharing the gospel. “Everything we do,” Matt says, “every partnership we enter into, is all to bring glory to Jesus. That’s the main focus of everything we do, whether we make a profit or break even.”
A Word from Sattler Baristas...
I work at The Well as a cashier/barista, and the main focus of my work is to communicate with customers in a cheerful manner and make their drinks in a timely fashion. What I love most about working at The Well is that it provides an environment that cares for the hearts of the people in Boston as well as the people who work there. I also love working at The Well because it gives back to the community through the different nonprofits it sponsors every month. Working at The Well has given me an opportunity to reach out to the people of Boston and show them the love of Jesus in a unique and delicious way.
~ Julie Hoover
What I enjoy most when working at The Well is washing dishes. This is because washing dishes provides an opportunity for solitude, to release myself from pressing college requirements, and to do something entirely different for several hours that is both a service to others and useful to myself. It’s therapeutic, really, to dip my hands into the suds, scalding them slightly, thinking, "Man, I love washing dishes. I love being alone to think." And this feeling of contentedness merges into the other tasks involved at The Well such as wiping tables or cheerfully greeting customers when I hand them their drink. Customers like it if you smile. Mixing a Caramel Vanilla Latte is as therapeutic in its own way as trash removal. Because of these experiences, I can say that I enjoy volunteering at The Well Coffee House. Stop by for a coffee sometime.