Dugan Sherbondy bio picture

    Hey, I'm Dugan! I'm 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, I'd love to connect! For a quick sample of some things I've done, check out this short video. Or just shoot me an email 72,69,82,69,46.EREH

Jesus Surfs Without a Board

I think the Bible is a lot less dramatic that we sometimes think.

I’m not sure if it’s the old school King James,  Charlton Heston, or something else but accounts from Scripture are so often presented and read in an overly-serious, over-dramatic (and probably slo-motion) kind of way. We picture everybody with these stern looks on their faces as they talk and even crazy displays of God’s power are met with chiseled, frowning faces, as if to make it clear that this is no surprise to them.

But the more I read the Bible, the more it seems like most accounts are just about normal people like us trying to follow and experience the same God.

At church yesterday, the pastor read the account of Jesus walking on water from Mark 6.

Dramatic right?

The disciples are in their boat as the storm rages and the angry seas crashed. It’s dark and loud and confusing. And then out of the mist comes a shadowy figure in a tan-colored robe, walking across the water with that same stern look on His face and stealy resolve in his eyes.

Or maybe not?

After reading the story again, it seems like it was probably a lot less dramatic than I used to think.

Here it is:

Jesus Walks on Water

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him.

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. – Mark 6:45-51 (NLT)

It’s obviously a pretty incredible story, but a few totally non-dramatic things stuck out to me.

Verse 48 says that Jesus intended to go past them. Haha, what?! Instead of this super dramatic moment, maybe Jesus was just being practical about getting to the other side of the lake! I know He’s God and all, but it’s funny to imagine that He was just walking to meet up with His disciples on the other side of the lake, He then sees that they’re in a boat and was like: “Wow, I can’t believe I caught them…I figured they would have made it by now. Oh well, I’ll just meet them there.” And proceeds to keep walking.

The only reason He didn’t pass by them was because they saw it was Him. So then in verse 50 He’s like: “Hey, guys! Don’t freak out, it’s just me!” (my words, not His)

This same account written by Matthew goes into more detail about Peter stepping out onto the water to join Jesus and John’s version says that once Jesus stepped into the boat, they were immediately at their destination (Jesus must have been making up time for not being able to just walk there on His own).


Bo Boshers, who’s like a student ministries guru, talks a lot about the “Be With Factor” when it comes to discipling students. Essentially this means that discpling students doesn’t have to be some dramatic, overly-serious, produced thing. Instead, one of the most powerful forms of discipleship is simply being with students in every day life. Just doing life together.

Pouring into a student could involve inviting them to run errands with you, hanging at the mall to buy their brother a birthday gift, having them over for a causal, chaotic dinner with you and your kids, watching a game or awards show together, or much more.

Students respond much more to a relational investment than some dramatic form of attempted discipleship like breaking down the Livitical Law or trying to read a Dallas Willard book in less than 6 months. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things for students who are ready, but just like Jesus seems to do when simply trying to get across a lake, we can make teachable moments by simply taking advantage and being open to the Holy Spirit in normal, everyday life while we hang out with students.

And if nothing else, student ministries makes it possible to call things like playing video games, going out for ice cream, or seeing The Hunger Games “ministry”! (that’s why all senior pastors are secretly super jealous of student ministry leaders..!)

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Friday Five #14

Welcome to the Friday Five! This week consists entirely of funny videos, so, if you have exactly 21 minutes and 2 seconds, enjoy these 5 videos that will hopefully make you laugh!


1). Louis CK’s Opening Monologue for SNL. Louis CK is easily one of my favorite standup comics. He seems so authentic with his comedy, like he’s just having a casual conversation with the audience about things that he makes very funny. At times I wish he wasn’t so crude in his content, but he’s still pretty gol darn hilarious. His performance on SNL was good but his opening monologue was outstanding. Enjoy.

2). Controversial Target Ad Model on Ellen. This is just plain brilliant in so many ways. I don’t watch Ellen but every time I see a segment from her show, (or when she hosts an awards show) I love what I see. I really like her sincere and humorous approach to everything she does. This was such a fun and smart way to make people laugh about a hot button issue while also bringing it to people’s attention in a nonthreatening way without an agenda .

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3). SNL Jos. A. Bank Commercial. This caught me off guard and made me literally laugh out loud (llol). Mostly because it’s true!

4). The Record Collector. I do have records and gladly put myself in that hipster category, but in the vein of Portlandia, this video made me laugh a lot. I wonder when cassette tapes are going to become cool and vintage?

5).Tig Notary on Conan. Tig is easily one of my favorite comedians. Arguably the best standup performance I’ve ever heard was one she did the day she found out she had cancer. In fact, Louis CK was in the audience that day and was so impacted by her performance (which she essentially ad-libbed since she didn’t feel up for doing her normal routine), that he sold it on his website with some of the proceeds going towards helping cancer research. Check out the story HERE and if you want to buy the audio (which I highly recommend), you can HERE. Here’s her latest performance from Conan this past week.

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Awana Bucks

For those of you who were ever apart of Awana, you remember Awana Bucks well. For those of you who were not, first of all I pity you, and second of all, Awana Bucks were pieces of paper “money” that each kid like me could earn through things like good behavior, winning at games, and most importantly: memorizing Bible verses.

Each week we’d receive Awana Bucks for verses memorized and sometimes there would even be some big challenge over the course of a few weeks or months that could result in a kid’s version of winning the Awana lottery. These bucks were then exchanged for things like candy, candy, and especially candy. They might have had other prizes to buy, but why would an eight year old boy buy anything but candy when given the chance?


Ever since Awana (which by the way, I totally loved as a kid and have nothing but great things to say about) the whole idea of memorizing Bible verses has been something I’ve been aware of and in support of. But I found myself always approaching memorization like some kind of spiritual chore. I’d memorize by reading verses over and over again, or  compiling a stack of flash cards, or closing my eyes and repeating phrases over and over again, or some combination of all three.

I remember learning about young Jewish boys during Jesus’ time who would go to school and work towards memorizing the entire Torah (first five books of the Bible), which I was amazed by! They must have spent so much time studying and devoting their minds and eyes and ears to the Bible until they had the whole thing committed to memory. I can’t even remember a shopping list that’s more than two items long!


Last night I was reading my daughter a book, “The Good Humor Man” for probably about the 50th time (seriously). It’s a fun little story that looks like it was first published in the 80′s about the jolly ice cream man selling Good Humor goodies from his little white Good Humor Truck (product placement, much?) that he drives around giving out delicious frozen treats to all the kids, parents, grandma’s, and dogs of a small town, followed by his return to Fun Valley (where ice cream is made and the little white trucks live…duh).

Eve has probably heard this book well over 100 times. And last night as I was reading (and she cycled between walking around her room, climbing on me, and sitting next to me to see the pictures), I noticed something amazing. She had most of the book totally memorized! There were whole sections and pages where she would be saying the same words that I was reading, right along with me.

It was pretty impressive. My two year old daughter, who can’t tie a shoe or understand the difference between “please don’t throw your macaroni” and “please rain pasta all over the kitchen” had memorized something!


As I said goodnight and left her room that night, it just struck me that maybe the true nature of memorizing the Bible isn’t necessarily sitting down and go through a bunch of difficult tactics in order to commit it to memory (although I believe that has it’s place). Maybe memorizing the Bible is much more about just experiencing it so much that we can’t help but have it implanted into our brains.

Ever hear a song so much that you all of a sudden realize you can sing along with it, without ever having sat down to read the lyrics or print them out on flash cards? For those of you, like me, who have seen Frozen a thousand times and listened to the soundtrack when the movie isn’t playing, you get what it’s like to be singing along with something word-for-word that you didn’t even know you knew. It was just the process of hearing something so much that your brain naturally absorbed it.

When it comes to the Bible, the verses I can recite from memory are those which I’ve just naturally read or talked about a lot. No flash cards, no clenched eyes while I loudly repeat them until I can remember them and their chapter/verse reference. Just the natural absorbtion into my memory based on frequent use. Eva memorized her book simply because it was a natural, daily part of her life.

And I could be wrong, but I think that might be the way God wants us to remember His Word.


Maybe the discipline of memorizing Scripture is less about the effort it could take, and more about knowing God. Just like knowing the phone number of our spouse by heart or knowing all the lyrics to “Let it Go” because you have a 2 year old daughter…okay fine, I’ll admit I like the movie too! You happy?!

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Friday Five #13

Happy Spring Friday, everyone! Hope you enjoy this week’s FF selections!


1). Some Good Ol’ 90′s Rap. For those of you who grew up in the 90′s, you can’t help but feel a sense of joy and nostalgia when hearing the words: “90s” and “rap” put together in a sentence. To add some even more euphoria, what if I also threw in the term: “Space Jam”?! For those of you who had the soundtrack, which is in the top 3 movie soundtracks of all time along with The Matrix and Ocean’s 11, here’s the music video to track 5, the Monstars rap (also the first song I memorized and am still able to sing word-for-word to this day). This is brought you by Sonza, which is by far, my favorite music app on my phone (yes, even more than Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, TuneIn or Beats). Check it out:

2). The Best Moments with Fred Armisen on Late Night. I’m usually not able to stay away late enough to catch Seth Meyer’s late night show, which is unfortunate because I love that Fred Armisen is his band leader. Fortunately, IFC compiled the top 5 moments of Fred’s and hilarity ensues. Enjoy all five here: http://www.ifc.com/shows/portlandia/blog/2014/03/5-fred-armisen-late-night-with-seth-meyers and I’ll also include my favorite below (just wait for the slogan…):

3). The Making of Frozen Intro Video. Being the father of a girl, it’s no surprise that we made a trip last week to purchase the DVD of Frozen, a movie whose soundtrack I have 99% memorized. One of the best parts of the DVD is the musical intro to the making of elements. I’m sure they’ll be a better quality video released soon, but for now, here’s what I found:

And now, two interesting things about SNL:


4). 10 Famous People Who Rejected SNL. Some of these really surprised me that they rejected an offer from Saturday Night Live (#2/#8), and some of these really surprised me that they were even offered (#4/#6)!

5). 32 Famous People Rejected by SNL. I’m so offended that #1 and #2 were rejected, but I suppose since they became huge comedy stars, I can get over it.

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6 Tips I Learned About Student Ministries

This past weekend, I had the privilege of traveling to Virginia to hang out with and teaching about 450 middle school students and a ton of amazing staff and volunteer adult leaders. On Saturday, I spent some time speaking to and learning from the adult leader who were there with their students. I spent a good chunk of this time outlining 6 tips about student ministries that I’ve learned. Most of them I learned either by accident or by God beating me over my stubborn head until I got it, but all of them have been important as God has developed my passion, philosophy, and vision for student ministries.

Anyway, I was asked by one of the leaders in attendance to write them down so, here they are! I won’t go into a lot of detail in this post but feel free to check out my book “Sow What?” at http://www.slimbooks.com/sowwhat for a more in-depth discussion and examples of each one!


1). Raise the Bar. My student ministries philosophy revolves a lot around 1 Timothy 4:12, which says: Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. I love this verse and I think it’s so important for anyone working in student ministries.

I really believe that through this verse, Paul is telling us that young people in Bible times (much like today) tended to be looked down on by older people who think they knew more and that is now okay. It it a major pet peeve of mine when students today are subconsciously or literally told to wait until they’re older or ‘more mature’ before they can take their life, decisions, and faith seriously. What a waste. According to what I read in Scripture, God frequently used young people for His purposes. David, Samuel, Esther, Timothy, and Jesus’ Disciples to name a few.

Because of this, I believe student ministries need to call students to a high standard of ownership in their faith. Things like teaching, worship, and community shouldn’t ever be dumbed down for the sake of students. Instead, we should teach up and call students to a high standard of life by taking them seriously, like I believe God does. It’s my belief that not only is this how God desires us to lead students, but also appropriately empowers students to learn from a young age what it means to personally own their faith, independently from their parents, pastors, or friends. Whether owning their faith means admitting they aren’t sure they even believe in God or they’re on fire for Him, I think students need to learn what it means to take their faith seriously and through that, discover the truth of God that will last far beyond middle school, high school, and college.

2). Fun. Not the band, although they’re really good. I believe fun needs to be a significant priority in student ministries, not just a throw-away element. Students need to know it’s okay to fully love Jesus…and still be/have fun. Gross games, hilarious videos, and youth pastors who don’t take themselves too seriously are key factors for students. Fun is so important. It knocks down walls, creates laughter, and is needed for students whose lives often time consist of things like the isolation of school, tons of homework, bullies, broken homes, dysfunctional families, shallow friendships, and even worse. Plus, in my opinion, by unashamedly having fun with students, we earn the right to go deep and teach up to them in teaching, worship, and community.

3). Just Say “Hi.” It’s amazing how a seemingly small, insignificant thing can lead to something incredibly important. As an introvert, it’s really difficult for me to walk up to someone I don’t know and start a conversation, but in the context of student ministries, I’ve learned that it is vital. A new and/or shy student who walks into a ministry without any friends there is already doing something incredibly brave and terrifying. And as uncomfortable as it might be for me to walk up and say hi, the impact it might have is well worth the initial awkwardness. By simply saying “hi” to a student, it could mean the difference between them coming back the following week, getting involved in a small group, signing up for a retreat, beginning a relationship with Jesus, and becoming a student pastor of a ministry with 1,000 students 10 years later. Obviously that’s not going to happen with every student you say hi to, but at the very least, you will have made a student feel welcomed and appreciated for a few minutes.

4). Create a Culture. In this context, I define culture as: “A very inclusive inside joke.” Culture is something that you feel apart of something the second you walk into the room. Culture in a student ministries context could be anything from a yearly trip, a silly chant, sports, music, merchandise, a game, or anything else that makes a student feel accepted, included, and a part of something with everyone else right away. When it comes to creating a culture, I think every student ministry will do this differently. A lot of it depends on the area, church, and student interests but I also think a lot of this depends on the personality of the student ministry leader. I once heard that Biblical teaching is “truth through personality.” In the same way, I’d say that creating a culture is a student leader creating elements of their ministry that are fun, random, and consistent, all connected to their individual personality, skills, and passions, so that any student who walks in will automatically feel a part of something.

5). High Expectations for Volunteers. I used to always lead volunteer leaders with a twinge of guilt in the back of my mind. Since they were giving up their time to serve students in a ministry, which I was paid to lead, I never wanted to make them feel pressured or taken advantage of. So, I would always ask things of them with a “but if you can’t, no big deal” kind of attitude. However, I found that this lead to many leaders not being fully engaged in their role as a volunteer. Instead, through some wise counsel and God patiently teaching me, I decided to unapologetically raise the expectations for volunteers. Things like consistency, connecting with students outside of ministry nights, and required weekly, quarterly, and yearly attendance for leader meetings/trainings became part of the deal.

What this did was not only clarify what was expected for a volunteer in student ministries, it also A). Showed how seriously we took our influence in the lives of students, B). Affirmed how important their role was as a calling to intentionally invest in and build relationships with students, and C). Make it much easier to have candid conversations with volunteers who couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through on the commitment.

6). Discipleship. This is a word that used a lot today in the context of ministry and for as many people that take discipleship seriously, there are as many opinions about what it is and how to best do it. The simplest way I think about discipleship in a student ministries context is how Bo Boshers talks about it, which is: “The Be-With Factor.” In a small group of 8-12 students, there might be one (possibly two) student who is ready for discipleship, which is simply an intentional, consistent, and one-on-one time with their small group leader to walk through life with them and help them grow. I think discipleship will look different for each church/ministry/leader/student but is key for any student ministry to take students who are ready to a deeper place of growth and relationship with Jesus through the relational influence of the leaders of the ministry.


These are just things I’ve learned in my experience but I am no expert. I would love to hear from any of you on things you also find to be keys for students ministries and/or any comments on anything I wrote as well.

Thanks for reading!


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