Dugan Sherbondy | pastor and creative communicator.
Part comedian, part teacher, and part pastor, Dugan is a traveling speaker who loves to serve any event geared towards middle school, high school, or college students. If you're interested in finding someone to speak at your next retreat, camp, conference, ministry night or leader training, you're at the right place! Use the links above for a quick sample of some things Dugan has done, what people have said, or shoot him an email 72,69,82,69,46.EREH
It seems like lately there’s been a tension, especially in Christian environments, around the way social media represents our lives versus the reality of our lives.
Each Instagram picture, Tweet, and FaceBook update can easily be framed or phrased in a way that has “reality tunnel vision” by taking a singular moment and broadcasting it to the internet, interpreted as representing an entire reality.
I’ve experienced this. A day filled with toddler tantrums, marital fights, a messy house, and unproductive work time ends up looking like a joyous family day as I post the one picture of us all smiling that we took in the morning or the day before.
A day full of stress, frustration, anxiety, and apathy doesn’t look that way when I post an inspirational quote or song lyric.
A day battling depression doesn’t look that way to anybody else when I post a funny license-plate picture, the one positive moment of my day.
Also, Leah Ball and Andrew Young started a challenge for people, especially students, called the Real 30 Day Challenge. It challenges Instagrammers to take a 30 day journey of only posting pictures that accurately represent their real life with no photo manipulation or moment embellishment. Again, brilliant and convicting.
Both of these are incredibly inspiring and they have challenged me in my own social media boundaries. They have caused me to spend less time trying to make a picture of tweet perfect and just post it “as is.” They have challenged me to stop and think about posting something that would be a direct misrepresentation of a moment. And they have encouraged me to look at my overall persona on social media and ask the question: “Does this accurately represent Dugan? Or am I using it to make myself look better?”
However, I also want to say that I have found social media to be a powerful tool in my life when it comes to finding positivity.
There have been times when I’ve hesitated to post a happy picture or funny tweet because it doesn’t contain the full truth of my day or a moment. But the alternative means posting something negative or pessamistic, which is just as bad or worse. I realize you could argue that in those moments you shouldn’t post anything, but wouldn’t that just further enforce falsely representing yourself?
Instead, something I’ve realized is this: Sometimes posting something on social media helps me see the positive in negative moments of my life.
While I could post something about my frustration with my daughter being a whiny toddler that day, or something my wife said that upset me or that I chose to procrastinate on some work that day, sometimes it’s better for my heart to post a picture of Eva smiling, something hilarious that Linds said, or an article on leadership I found informative.
There are times when this might draw close to falsely representing myself or my life, but there are also times when it simply helps me find the one nugget of joy or beauty or positivity in a day when it would be easy for me to miss it.
There is clearly a line between “seeing the positives in life” and “falsely representing yourself”, which each person has to discern for themselves along with the Holy Spirit, but don’t confuse the two. There are times when you need to not post something because it’s a direct misrepresentation (fancy word for lie) but there also might be times when positing something is a tangible way to choose joy within your circumstances.
So when your kid spends most of the day throwing epic tantrums, post a picture of them smiling to remind you how much joy they bring to your life. When your spouse upsets you the night before, post something bragging about them to help you release any residual bitterness and remind you of your love for them. When you have a day feeling stressed, depressed, or frustrated, post a picture of your home, office, refrigerator, or car to remind yourself of all the blessings in your life.
And of course, in-between all these, make sure to post pictures of what you look like right after waking up, a full-body shot of the clothes you normally wear around the house, an unimpressive meal you ate, and a non-staged photo with your significant other (see below).
This term always carries with it a subconscious pressure to find someone so much better than yourself that if you don’t, you messed up or settled. Yes, it’s important to hold your spouse in a very high regard (Paul tells spouses to submit to and honor each other in Ephesians 5:22-23) but the term “marrying up” implies you have to make sure to find someone so completely out of your league to be happy. It also has a physical connotation to it, implying the person you marry has to be categorized as way above-averagely beautiful, otherwise you somehow missed it.
Instead, the Bible talks about a husband and wife being “equally yoked” together in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Contextually, Paul is talking about those who believe and follow Jesus and those who don’t, but some of the best relationship perspective I’ve ever heard came from my friends Bill and Treva who, in counseling engaged couples, would always prayerfully discern whether a couple was equally yoked, rather than simply looking at the black and white “letter of the law” in their relationship.
The person people chose to commit the rest of their lives to should be someone who is their equal. Again, not that husbands and wives can’t or shouldn’t think extremely highly of their spouse (because they should), but pre-marriage, there shouldn’t be this pressure to marry Superman or Superwoman. Instead, it should be about finding someone who loves God, becomes your best friend, and that you choose to love forever. Then through that, a spouse will be the most amazing person on the planet.
Instead of feeling a pressure to find someone who is way above you, spend your time finding the person who is right for you.
Happy Wife = Happy Life
I don’t like this because, as a husband, this phrase indicates that I should do anything and everything to make my wife happy. Granted, its a wonderful thing to want to make your spouse happy and something people in marriages should strive for. But this phrase can make it seem like husbands should do whatever, just as long as their wife is happy. Or worse, that husbands should passibly not do anything that might make their wife anything less than happy.
The truth is that a spouse’s immediate happiness isn’t always the most important thing. The most important thing is loving them. Sometimes loving someone will make them very happy, such as giving them a gift or speaking encouragement to them. But other times, loving someone won’t make them immediately happy. Bringing a child to get a shot won’t make them happy in the moment, but in reality is the parent loving them by helping their body stay healthy.
There have been many times when Lindsay has challenged my heart or behavior and in the moment, I didn’t feel happy. I felt hurt and defensive. But the truth is that she loves me enough to help me be the best man/husband/father that I can be, even if that means feeling unhappy for a moment or season. And I want that to be something my spouse does! I don’t want a wife that won’t speak her mind or be herself, just to keep me happy. Nor do I want to be that kind of husband. I want a marriage full of happy love but also tough love.
So, instead of just focusing on doing or not doing whatever in order to ensure a spouse’s happiness, a better focus is doing or not doing whatever to ensure a spouse is truly loved.
Happily Ever After
Fairytales are accurately named, because they aren’t real. Finding prince charming and living happily every after is only true in Disney cartoons from the 90’s. And modern movies (see: Chick Flicks) generally paint a picture of love and romance that indicates that feeling loved and happy all the time is the end goal and sole indicator of a good relationship.
But life won’t always be happy. Jesus even said so (John 16:33). Therefore, relationships (including marriage) won’t always be happy. That doesn’t mean a marriage should end or even that there’s something wrong with it. Entering into marriage with an expectation that everything is going to be perfect and all our emotional needs for joy will be met is unwise at best and destructive at worst. Emotional happiness isn’t the most important goal. Instead, we should strive to find joy in the mundane and even painful times. Speaking of which…
“The Honeymoon is Over”
I get it. There’s usually a literal honeymoon post-wedding that fits into the “fairytale” category of reality. It’s usually somewhere tropical with very little responsibility except having fun and putting on sunscreen (for us pale people). Then it’s back to marriage in real life, which is generally viewed as less glamorous and (therefore) less good.
But I don’t think this true. I’ve found that the best parts of marriage are found in the normal, everyday parts of life. Eating cereal for dinner while watching Friends, people-watching as we’re stuck at the airport, Netflix marathons, singing 90’s music in the car, and too many inside jokes that are so dumb, they’re only funny to us…and sometimes not even then!
This phrase sets up marriage as being great at first…then a slow decline. I think that’s not only false, but a really unhealthy expectation. Sure the honeymoon and first year or two of marriage can be especially fun since they’re filled with so many firsts. But sometimes the first year or two can be really difficult as two separate people learn how to live together, make decisions together, and love each other. And ideally, a marriage will get better over time! A healthy, growing marriage will only get better as a couple learns more about each other and grows closer in how to love each other. To me, the honeymoon being over is great! Then we get to be married and in love during real life and not rely on amazing circumstances to be our source of joy.
Marriage is 50/50 or 100/100
The original saying was: “Marriage is 50/50.” Then, more recently, it became: “Marriage is 100/100″ meaning: both the husband and wife need to give all their 100% for a marriage to be successful.
However, over the course of my marriage, Linds and I have discovered that as each person goes through seasons, their spouse can often times step up to offer more support when needed. Last year, I went through a journey of discovering, through counseling, that I was experiencing depression and getting on the correct medication. During that time, I probably gave more like 80%, instead of 100%. The good news is that during that time, Linds totally stepped up and gave 120% to love me and our family. Similarly, when she goes through difficult or busy times and can’t quite give her all, I step my game up and make up the difference to support and love her.
I’m not sure if marriage is supposed to equal 100% or 200% or 633%, but either way, as the seasons of life ebb and flow, each member of a marriage can give more when their spouse has to give less.
I know there are a lot of opinions about media (social and otherwise) when it comes to student ministries.
Some ministries collect students’ cell phones as they enter a room or a retreat, some people are writing about how how they broke up with their cell phone to be more present in the moment, some ministries attempt to recreate their own version of really funny online videos, and much more.
All of which are fine, but I believe there are two ways to look at modern technology when it comes to student ministries: 1). An obstacle or 2). A tool.
Sure there are aspects of modern technology that can be a distraction for students. But I believe the ability to utilize technology for Kingdom ministry far outweighs the potential distractions.
So, for any of you student ministry staff, small group leaders, or volunteers, here are 8 ways I believe it can be helpful and sometimes vitally important to use media in modern student ministry.
1). Sign Your Ministry Up for Social Media. Make sure your ministry has FaceBook and YouTube page along with a Twitter and Instagram account. It might take time to build up a following and you might think the reminder tweet about service that night isn’t worth it for your 16 followers, but who knows, even if one more student shows up because of it, it’s worth it!
2). Post Stuff About Your Students.This goes both for the ministry account and the personal accounts of small group leaders. Instagram pics of them, tweet inside jokes, take group selfies, and tag them! Not only is it fun, but it will show them that you care about them and are thinking about them.
3). Use Hashtags.Have a hashtag for a teaching series or retreat theme that students can tag when posting pictures or about something God is doing in their life. Have a consistent one for your ministry, but also come up with ones that change every few weeks with a new teaching series or event. Even small groups came come up with their own!
4). Instagram Competitions. Maybe for a giveaway, maybe for a teaching, or maybe just for fun. Come up with a concept that students have to post and then tag (see above suggestion). Pick a winner and show the winning pictures/tweets at your service and online. It’s a great way to engage students.
5). Google Races.Let’s face it, students have their phones in church. I know it’s annoying to see that blue glow on their face when you’re passionately teaching about Jesus or belting out a powerful worship chorus, but it’s the world we live in. My personal opinion is: I don’t care if you’re not listening, I just care if you’re distracting someone else from listening who wants to. Meaning: I never required students to give up their phones, I just made sure leaders knew they were equipped to ask a student to put it down if they noticed it was distracting.
Anyway, one fun way to utilize this fact is to have a competition where you ask a trivia question and students with phones have to “Google Race” to see how can find the answer first. It’s fun as a whole audience game or with just brining a few volunteers up on stage. And for the students without smart phones, well they can keep playing Snake.
6). Find Videos Instead of Making Videos.Many times, a student ministry team will work really hard to create a funny or powerful video, spending hours of time writing, filming, and editing…only to discover an already made YouTube, Vimeo or Devour video a few weeks later that would have been perfect. There’s so much media out there! Before you use your time to create something or if you don’t have the resources to make one, do a little research and see if you can find it. Most likely it will be just as good and will take way less time!
7). Get a Text Service.It can be fun and really helpful to have a text service that students can sign up for to receive regular updates and reminders about ministry nights, events or competitions. They’re easy for students to sign up for and gives you instant access to the screen they’re constantly staring at.
8). Give Out Your Phone Number.There’s some wisdom that needs to go along with this (such as only giving it to your small group, only giving it to students of the same gender, etc.), but I’ve found that giving students the access to text me at any point opens a lot of opportunity for ministry. It’s fun to get random funny texts as well as have a few really great conversations about life and God. Sure you might get crank-called at 3am once in a while, but that’s just a small sacrifice for a big win.
ATTENTION STUDENTS! I’m doing a totally free video game giveaway competition! Instead of using them as coasters or really lame Frisbees, I want YOU to have them! All games are for Play Station 3 and if you win, you won’t even have to pay for shipping!
Here’s how it works:
– Post a picture on Instagram or Twitter with the game you want to win and why you think you deserve to win it.
– The picture can be funny, serious, random, or whatever you want. Just be creative!
– Keep any text explanation under 141 characters.
– Make sure to tag @dugansherbondy and use the hashtag #DGameGiveaway so you can see others’ entries!
– The only other rule is that if you win, once you beat the game, you have to give it away to someone else!
Last weekend at Cross Point Church here in Nashville, Pete Wilson was teaching and referenced “The Magnificat”, which is the song that Mary sang after discovering she was pregnant with God’s Son. Speaking to an audience of Nashvillians (97% hipsters and/or people in the music industry – see above picture) Pete said that Mary was very “Nashville” because after going through a powerful emotional experience…she wrote a song about it.
I lol-ed, along with all the people around me who were wearing beanies, visible arm-tattoos, and judging me for putting sugar in my organic pour-over coffee (see above picture).
As he read Mary’s song, which I’d heard many times before, there was a phrase that caught my attention.
In Luke 1:51-52, Mary writes:
He has done mighty things with his powerful arm. He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones. But he has lifted up people who are not considered important. (NIRV)
The part that drew my attention was the phrase “those who are proud in their deepest thoughts.”
It shook me a little.
It shook me because there are many times that I am prideful, but not the kind of pride that most people could identify. Maybe the people who know me best might be able to detect it a little, but I think I’m really good at fooling the majority of people into thinking I’m a humble, selfless, and generous person…despite what’s happening in my deepest thoughts.
One of the scariest teachings I’ve heard is by Bill Hybels called: “Who You Are When No One’s Looking.”
It’s scary because it forces me to admit that I think way more about who I am when people are looking than who I am when I’m alone. It forces me to admit that I practice my appearance more than I practice my character. That no matter what I can convince people of, God still knows my deepest thoughts.
I love Christmas gifts. I love giving them just as much as I love getting them. There are a lot of things about Christmas that I love (decorating our tree, the music, the movies) but by far, exchanging gifts is my favorite. I love the anticipation of opening presents, the authentic joy of a gift, and the obviousness of when someone is faking how excited they are for their new sock ironer, and everything else that goes along with it.
I sometimes get a little sick of church signs or iPad commercials telling me about the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ but at the same time, I probably wouldn’t ever think about it if I wasn’t reminded to. And the real meaning of Christmas is gifts. Or more accurately, one gift. The greatest gift ever given: Jesus.
Jesus was a gift.
A crazy generous gift. Like a billion PS4’s. God gave us His Son. And not just to spend a few years with us, but to die for us. God loved people so much, He gave the most generous, sacrificial gift ever. The life of His Son.
My favorite Christmas song ever is called “I Celebrate The Day” by Relient K and my favorite line of that song is:
“I celebrate the day that you were born to die so I could one day pray for you to save my life.”
Up until I heard that song, I’d never put it all together that Jesus was born to die. I mean, I knew that’s what happened but people generally think about Good Friday during the chorus of Silent Night. Christmas is such a joyful time of celebration and hearing the story of Jesus being miraculously born. He’s this cute little baby surrounded by calmly grazing animals and shepherds who came to worship Him.
But He wasn’t born to give us nativity sets or Linus something to say on stage.
He was born to die.
He was born to die for the pride I have in my deepest thoughts.
Because Jesus died for me when I was at my worst.
I’ve often heard that Jesus was thinking of each human being as He died on the cross, which I believe is true. But He wasn’t thinking about us when we’re at our best, He was thinking about us when we were at our most sinful. Jesus died for you and me when we were at our worst. He died for the me who disobeys God. The me that is selfish, lustful, hateful, prideful, and cruel. That’s the Dugan He pictured when He was dying. He didn’t just love my best to die for me, He loved my worst. And not just the worst that people see, but the worst that only He sees in my deepest thoughts.
He loved me more at my worst than I love most people at their best.
And if ever there was a thought to celebrate Christmas, that’s it.
This Christmas I want to do my best to live with a deep sense of humble gratitude that Jesus was born to die for me. For the deepest sinful parts of me. And as I give and open gifts to and from loved friends and family, I want to remember that Jesus was a gift. To me, to you, to the whole world.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16