When Katie McPherrin entered college at the University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign (UIUC) she was still an infant in the faith. She had a sense of who Jesus was, but he was not guiding her life in any meaningful way. If there hadn’t been an InterVarsity Bible study in her dorm, she probably would not have made the trek to another part of campus in order to attend. But as it was, InterVarsity held weekly Bible study meetings on her floor, and Katie faithfully attended.
By her Sophomore year in school, Katie had taken steps towards becoming a much stronger disciple in Christ. She began to have regular quiet times and went on a summer mission trip to Italy. But it was between her Sophomore and Junior years that she began to intentionally seek and follow the direction of God.
Her Junior year, Katie had planned to go abroad, but her InterVarsity staff worker encouraged her to stay on campus and lead a Bible study. Although it sounded crazy to give up studying abroad, she felt God affirming the decision to stay behind. And that year being in a leadership role ignited something inside of Katie.
Katie’s infectious, outgoing, and passionate personality lent her gifts well to leading a women’s Bible study. She loved shepherding the girls in discipleship to Christ. And after going to Chapter Focus week and seeing the staff who led the camp, she said, “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, that’s something I want to do, too!’”
Getting Katie to join staff took little convincing. “The pivotal thing for me was InterVarsity staff coming to ask me to be in leadership. It was staff asking me and God enabling me to respond with a ‘yes’,” she said. Staff work came naturally to Katie, who sees herself as a visionary and a motivator. She loves to develop students. This ardor for discipling students helped lay the foundation for a ministry of chapter building.
For Katie, helping students to find their gifts and passions motivates her. As a staff worker she was able to see students transform both internally and externally. When she spent time with student leaders dealing with hard issues in the chapter, she helped them process what went on inside them. She could then see God’s hand transforming them.
“Leadership is having access to mentoring students in the nitty gritty of their life…I like walking with students toward God’s mission and in turn understanding what particular mission they are made for,” she said.
InterVarsity’s vision for UIUC is to make Jesus known by growing loving biblical communities. Although the vision for UIUC was already in place by the time Katie joined staff, she wanted her students to catch that vision for themselves and integrate it into their life as a chapter.
Katie worked hard to follow God’s leading, and with his direction took the chapter deeper into an understanding of evangelism. Under her direction, the last student leadership team developed and led as many GIG’s (Groups Investigating God) as small groups – almost 30. This group of student leaders took evangelism to heart. And for Katie it was exciting “seeing student transformation leading to campus transformation.”
Katie and her staff partner, Trever Risinger, each brought unique gifts to building the chapter. And in her humility Katie often acknowledges and affirms the leadership of Trever. Without him, she says, building the chapter at UIUC would have been much more difficult. Clearly, her effectiveness as a staff person stems from the humility of her character, passion for student transformation, and lively personality. She modeled for her students a life ardently pursuing the interests of God.
Katie’s gift of leadership have taken her even further now. Her role has shifted from Campus Staff Member into that of an Associate Area Director; she is currently the team leader for the UIUC undergraduate ministry and its staff team. She oversees the 300-350 students involved in the chapter and about 8-11 staff workers. “The chapters are in the hands of others now,” said Katie without an ounce of wistfulness in her voice, “Now I get to engage the staff team toward our vision.”
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