During the 2013-’14 school year, one Bethel student found herself unexpectedly in the hospital, dealing with a major medical issue. But she was not alone – her housemates rallied around her, creating a rotating schedule so that, at all times, at least two of them were at the hospital with her. They shifted their social schedules and worked around class times to ensure she was never without company.

This dedication to each other did not come by accident. It is a result of what Bethel calls intentional living communities – groups of six to eight students who apply to live in a house together and dedicate themselves to common goals for the school year.

This year there were 15 female students who participated in an intentional living community. More communities are being planned for next year and will include male housing in addition to female housing, says John Kaehr, resident director and coordinator of the intentional living communities.

Requirements for living in one of these houses include a weekly Bible study with housemates, attending monthly community events, participating in a mentoring relationship and having an accountability partner in the house. Each house is also asked to write a mission statement and have specific goals they pursue as a group, for which they are held accountable by student development staff.

“We want the mission statement and the goals to be something they are excited about, something they are committing to do purposefully as a house,” says Kaehr. Some examples of goals from this year’s houses were eating a meal together once a week and going to a campus event once per month to show support for their peers.

Residence life staff members hope that all students will participate in activities such as Bible studies, mentoring and building deep relationships with others on campus, but Kaehr says this is an opportunity to invite students to be more purposeful in these efforts. “This is a way for students to say, here are some things we know we should be doing, and we’re going to commit to doing them intentionally together,” says Kaehr.

Watch this video to hear from some students who participated in an intentional living community this year: