Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

Campus Ministries Work Together to Serve Students

The director of Navigators discusses why campus ministries are important to the well-being of students.

Transitioning to college is a pivotal time in the lives of young people. The University offers students a wide range of services to help with the change, from free counseling to mentorship and more. Millersville also offers religious clubs for students seeking to connect with their faith and spirituality as they step out on their own.  

John Birkenbine, a 2009 graduate of the elementary education program, is now a campus minister at Millersville and the campus director of the MU Navigators, a Christian organization. The Millersville chapter of the Navigators started in 2005 and was led by Dr. John Hoover, a professor of neuroscience and physiology in the biology department at the University, where he continues to work today. 2005 just happened to be Birkenbine’s freshman year. In order to start the club, Millersville requested the signatures of 15 students. Birkenbine’s name was on the list – as well as Melanie, his now wife. “I still have the document to this day,” he shares.  

The original document features John and Melanie’s signatures.

Birkenbine spent several years teaching in the classroom, but always remembered his experience with the Navigators in college fondly. “I had an internal sense that I wanted to be a teacher less and less every year,” he shares. 

During college, Birkenbine spent a lot of time with Hoover, sharing meals and talking about life. When he became an upperclassman, he started to do the same for younger students. “I thought, ‘Is this something you could do for your whole life? I love this.’”  

His chance came in 2012. Birkenbine and his wife quit their jobs, as a teacher and a social worker, respectively, and moved to State College to work with the Penn State Navigators. In 2016, they moved back to Millersville to head up the Navigators ministry at MU. “This is my home,” he says. “I grew up riding my bike around the pond. Now, I get to give students the same things I got to experience at a pivotal time in their life.” Birkenbine says he sees his role as more than just working with a group of students. “I would really like to make Millersville a better place to be, and a big part of that is being engaged with the University,” he shares. “I want to be invested.” 

One of the ways Birkenbine and the other faith groups on campus do that is by working with the Interfaith Council of Ministers to host interfaith events. Each spring, they come together to hold Faith & Spiritually Week, which focuses on bringing the Millersville community together by engaging in mindful practices and promoting spiritual wellness on campus.  

Looking for a way to get involved? Check out the religious clubs on campus:   

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