Project Neighborhood (PN) is an off-campus housing option for sophomore, junior and senior students. A select co-ed group of students live together in a PN house with mentors.
Housemates invest in their intentional communities by sharing food in common and participating in weekly rhythms, and they commit themselves to meeting neighbors and getting involved with local organizations.
- Mission and Vision
Project Neighborhood equips students to thrive as Christ’s agents of renewal through intentional fellowship with housemates, relationships with neighbors, and service-learning in local neighborhoods.
- Vibrant Community—Spend time together, break bread together and communicate effectively together
- Loving Neighbors—Expressing hospitality and caring acts of service to those outside of our home
- Purposeful Discipleship—Spiritual attentiveness, accountability, justice and spiritual disciplines
- Committed Sustainability—Be creative stewards of the resources gifted to us
- Attentiveness to the ordinary—Be observant to and tell the stories of the gifts that come in the ordinary and routine parts of communal life
Project Neighborhood is a housing opportunity through which Calvin students live in intentional Christian community in the city of Grand Rapids. Participants are committed to personal spiritual growth, structured time together as house residents, and service to the neighborhood and community. Intentional community is hard work. It takes commitment by participants. But if you're interested in the challenge of learning to love God more fully and learning to love your neighbor more authentically, then this may be an option for you. Guidance from community leaders, college representatives and in-house mentors will lead you to personal growth, as well as opportunities for making an impact in the community. We strive to live out the Acts 2 vision of the church and being disciples of Christ.
- Living Expectations
As a Project Neighborhood resident, a shared living experience will include:
- Having a designated number of meals together
- Regular house meetings
- Weekly Bible study and prayer time
- Shared responsibility for housekeeping (e.g. food preparation, cleaning, lawn care, etc.)
- Approximately 12 hours a week of Project Neighborhood responsibilities. This has two aspects: participation in the above-listed house details and involvement in the neighborhood (each PN student will invest 20 hours a semester in community service in the neighborhood)
- Limiting your extracurricular activities and employment obligations to be fully engaged in the PN activities
Intentional reflection and learning is integrated into the Project Neighborhood experience. Each semester you will participate in a house retreat, and in the fall, a day-long all-PN retreat. Twice each semester, you will also participate in a Saturday morning (9 am – Noon) workshop for on-going training and education. Retreats and workshops are not optional, they are required as part of your commitment to PN.
What comes with living in PN?
- All houses are furnished
- Laundry facilities in each house
- Free Internet
In the process of cultivating and defining community in each house, the Project Neighborhood students and mentors develop covenants that guide commitments and values that the house will strive to live out. It is these guiding principles that allow students to be stretched and to hold each other accountable.
- Application & cost
Any Calvin student with the following characteristics may apply for Project Neighborhood:
- Interest in and commitment to transparent Christian community living, urban living and anti-racism
- Willingness to exercise gifts of creativity, hospitality and service
- General understanding of Calvin's campus environment
- Confidence and maturity in interpersonal relationships
- Manifested Christian commitment in thought, word and deed
- Full-time student status at Calvin and fulfills the university's eligibility requirements for participation in campus activities as reflected in the Student Handbook
In addition, experience has taught us that substantial commitments outside of the Project Neighborhood Community are not recommended. Students are asked to limit employment and co-curricular activities. The expectation is that students will commit at least 12 hours per week to intentional Christian community and its responsibilities.
The charge for living in the house will be $300 per month (for nine months), which includes all utilities except personal long distance calls. Shared food expenses are not covered in the charge. A certain amount of “program” expenses will be covered with this fee.
Students apply individually. We welcome friend groups considering living in PN, but cannot guarantee acceptance or house placements.
The application for Project Neighborhood is now closed.
1. Do I need a car to live in project neighborhood?
No. Although the houses are located off-campus, they are all located near bus lines. Using Calvin's discounted fee to Ride the Rapid, taking the bus to/from a Project Neighborhood is very cheap. In addition, residents carpool frequently.
2. How strict is the “12 hours a week” requirement?
These hours include some of the time together as a house such as meals together and house meetings. Of course the houses are flexible, so it will be up to you and those who live in your house as to what kind of time commitments you will have. But if you're that tight for time, it's possible Project Neighborhood might not be right for you. We hope that time and service are a natural part of your experience in PN.
3. If I’m already involved in a ministry, will I have to drop it to be involved with the house’s specific organization?
No, the ministries you are already involved in are an important part of the house’s base of service. Many different kinds of service are encouraged. However, we hope all residents gravitate toward ministries close to the house and churches, as it integrates the experience well.
4. Project Neighborhood is a Calvin sponsored program, so does that mean the houses have to follow Calvin rules?
This isn't on-campus living, so there are few Calvin rules. Each house differs in the rules they as a community create. Part of community development is this process of developing the "covenants", which guide life in the houses. Residents are responsible to each other in these communities.
6. What if I want to go away for an off-campus program either interim, first or second semester?
We still encourage you to apply. Many former community members have worked around this. You may be placed back to back with another applicant who will be gone the opposite semester as you. You will also be encouraged to return to the house after your time away to continue your commitment. So much depends on how many people are applying and what their individual plans are.
7. The neighborhoods in which the houses are located have higher crime rates—will I be safe?
Yes, as safe as you would be anywhere else, as safe as you make it. In the HISTORY of the program, no person has been harmed. A few cars have been vandalized, but no significant problems have occurred. Some houses have alarm system, and residents play active roles in maintaining a safe environment.
9. Are mentors like RDs & RAs?
No—mentors are either a single person or a married couple with or without kids. Each house is different and each mentor brings different gifts, and therefore the roles that the mentors play change from house to house. But in general, they are equals in the community who come with a different perspective than most college students. They provide experience and guidance when needed. Ultimately their role is like any house resident: to support, guide and build each other within the community. They help maintain good communication with the university and the cooperating churches as well.
10. If you live in the Fuller, Harambee, Peniel or Nizhoni house, do you have to attend Fuller CRC, First CRC, Eastern Ave CRC or Creston CRC on Sundays?
No, although we do encourage students to become involved. The churches typically have commissioning services at the beginning of each semester, and you are encouraged to attend to maintain a connection to the people that are supporting you, praying for you and ultimately paying for part of your experience. Students attend these churches together at least once a month.
Project Neighborhood officially began in the spring of 1998, with the move-in of 7 students with Bruce and Sue Osterink into the Koinonia House on Lake and Auburn. The planning for PN had been going on for some time—Bruce and Sue Osterink (friends of the university) began inquiring about an intentional Christian community of Calvin students as early as 1996. Chaplain Dale Cooper called together an exploratory committee to dream about it, and in the spring of 1997 a large group of people were called together for more formal brainstorming and planning.
Calvin began looking to purchase a house with funds specifically raised by Bruce Osterink and Chaplain Cooper and investigated several houses. In the fall of 1997, the house on Lake Drive was purchased from Wedgewood Christian Services, which had been using the house as a group home. Conveniently, the zoning for this home was maintained, allowing us to have up to 9 students and 2 mentors live in it. The first group of students moved into the Koinonia House in the spring of 1998.
As part of the programming of the house, Rhonda Berg developed a one-credit seminar course to accompany the program, which students were required to take. Calvin also developed a house covenant (or contract) which residents had to sign. Students looked negatively upon the contract, so Calvin turned over the work of writing a “covenant” to the residents themselves, with very few guidelines from Calvin. And the students were asked to commit 10 hours per week to service in the neighborhood.
In late 1998, First Christian Reformed Church approached Calvin about its old parsonage, which had been recently vacated. The PN committee decided to step out in faith and open a second PN house with the church, with students working in the church’s ministries for their service connection. In the summer of 1999, the church renovated the home and applied for a zoning variance to allow up to 7 students plus the mentor(s), though there haven't been more than 6 students in the house at any one time. The first group of students moved into the Harambee House in the fall of 1999. The ministry of “presence” in the neighborhood was particularly helpful and noticeable here, and the Harambee House quickly became a favorite place for neighborhood children to visit.
In 2000, Eastern Avenue CRC made a strong pitch for a PN house in their old parsonage as well. New construction at their church necessitated the house to be moved north on Eastern to an empty lot. The congregation made this decision on faith, as the costs were high. The Peniel House opened in the spring of 2001. Because of the building move, however, the house fell under more strict building code issues and is only able to accommodate 5 students plus the mentor(s).
In the fall of 2005, Creston CRC discussed a partnership between the college and the church. The church was passionate about starting up the program, although had no parsonage into which to move students. A Creston CRC committee worked for the next two years to secure funding and the appropriate house. After many months Creston partnered with ICCF to assist in the funding of such a huge undertaking. After several properties slipped through their hands, in the spring of 2007 a house was purchased on Buffalo, adjacent to the church. After some scrambling, Noah and Megan Kruis moved into the house in fall 2007 with three students with a variance for six students plus the mentor(s).
In the fall of 2008, Calvin was approached by Gordon Food Service, who were interested in donating a family home to the Project Neighborhood program. The house was on Travis Street and had been owned by Issac Vanwestenbrugge, who was passionate about community outreach in the neighborhood. After extensive renovations and meetings with the zoning commission the house opened in the fall of 2009. Ismael and Vanessa Abreu moved into the house as the first mentors with six students.
In the fall of 2012, Fuller CRC approached Calvin about the use of its parsonage as the newest house in the Project Neighborhood program. The location of the house and the missional direction of the church made this a great opportunity for the expansion of Project Neighborhood. The Fuller House, as it is currently called, focuses its service-learning efforts through the ministries of the church. Fuller Ave. CRC has a very active presence in their local community. Recruitment for students and mentors to live in the house began in the spring of 2013. Five returning Project Neighborhood students joined mentors Jana and Matt Visser for the inaugural fall 2013 semester.
Expectations of Mentors
To foster the goals of Project Neighborhood through serving as a participant-mentor in the life of the house and giving leadership through modeling, mentoring and facilitating a house environment which is caring, accountable, and shaped by prayer and biblical principles.
- Facilitate and encourage the active participation and ownership of the students in developing and living a common life together in which they relate to one another as image bearers of God, bridge social and economic barriers and develop vision and capacity for service.
- Facilitate the formation of, participation in and reflection upon the community of the house, including weekly house meetings which attempt to develop desired outcomes for the project.
- Facilitate house meetings to determine responsibilities related to housekeeping, meals, property maintenance and neighbor relations.
- Provide mentoring and discipleship avenues for residents.
- Ensure the maintenance of the physical structure of the house, in connection with the facility supervisor.
- Develop positive personal relationships with neighbors and facilitate the students’ efforts in this regard.
- Serve as representative of the university.
Interested in becoming a PN Mentor?
We typically conduct searches for PN mentors beginning in January or February each spring. Please look for any possible job postings at Calvin Employment here.