By Gordon Govier

When the Trajectory Changes

Hannah and Brandon Pepin met during college when they were both on the leadership team of the InterVarsity chapter at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville. Back then, as they described it, the team was pretty dysfunctional. There were three guys and one girl, which turned out to be three extroverts and one introvert.

“We didn’t know how to communicate and there was a lot of frustration and turmoil,” Brandon said. But when the team attended Chapter Focus Week at the end of the school year,God stirred up a vision for their mission on campus and that brought unity to the team. Then through personality analysis tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and books such as  Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne, they gained a greater appreciation for the importance of team dynamics in leadership selection.

They believe that a strong leadership team is key to the success of a chapter. “I think a lot of times teams are formed only around theological unity or philosophical unity and they forget the relational part,” Brandon said. "It's important to have all three."

For the four years that Hannah and Brandon have been a staff team at UW—Platteville, the student leadership team has led with a clear and unified vision. “I think this has helped the chapter develop consistency in their mission and vision,” Brandon said. “They are focusing on their mission instead of distractions.”

Having a clear vision has allowed the chapter to set aside some annual events that were fun and not bad in themselves but that weren’t furthering the chapter’s mission on campus. For instance, dropping the annual Valentine’s dinner that the males in the chapter put on for the females, and the Lumberjack Breakfast that the females put on for the males, made room for the chapter to more fully participate in and benefit from the discipleship training at their regional winter conference.

Faith Renewed on Campus

Hannah and Brandon were both raised in families that went to church. But InterVarsity at UW—Platteville introduced them to a faith that was dramatically changing the lives of people they knew.

Hannah came to UW—Platteville as an athlete, running cross country and track. She didn’t get plugged in to InterVarsity until she was a junior and an injury gave her more time away from athletics. That year she invited her friend Julie to join her at InterVarsity’s annual Cross-Training conference, and Julie became a follower of Jesus. “That was really huge in the development of my missional understanding,” Hannah said.

As a freshman, Brandon was mentored by an InterVarsity upperclassman named Ben. “What I saw from Ben was what it looked like to let your faith impact every part of your life,” he said. Later Brandon felt God lead him to invest time in developing a stronger relationship with his friend Cody. Months later, after conversations that followed a lot of video games and pizza, Cody was ready to become a follower of Jesus.

“Being passionate about lost people finding Jesus is the impetus for both of us coming on staff,” Brandon said. Hannah added, “InterVarsity had such a big impact on our own lives and we saw so much growth out of our experience.” Now Hannah and Brandon have a daughter to raise as well as a campus fellowship to mentor. They want to prepare college students to live as disciples of Christ and make new disciples after college.

“It’s so critical for our students to realize that Jesus is not just asking them for some spare time; he’s asking for a blank check for their entire life,” Brandon said. “If students can learn what it’s going to take to make disciples when it’s easy—when there’s fruit that comes quickly—then they’ll be willing when the fruit comes more slowly, when it probably will take more sacrifice. If they get that as students, then they’ll be willing to make the sacrifice because it’s worth it.”

InterVarsity has a rich tradition of ministry at UW—Platteville, stretching back for more than 50 years (see video below). It’s one of the largest student groups on campus and is highly respected by campus administrators. To Brandon, that says that thousands of InterVarsity alumni are now living lives of Christian witness that would not have happened if they hadn’t linked up with InterVarsity in college.

“The four years on campus are important, but the 60 years that follow are even more important,” he said. “I think most of what happens in college is a trajectory change. That’s why it’s so incredibly strategic in people’s lives.”