I have news: We are moving to the desert!
As of this morning, I have accepted the position of High School Director at Paradise Valley Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona! It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m very excited about it. The church has been around since the early 1980’s and in the past couple years, decided they want to aggressively seek to become a powerful source for God’s love in the Phoenix community.
Because of this, they hired an energetic and high-capacity leader and communicator named David Harris, who felt God call him to Paradise Church. Once in place, David has been seeking dynamic leaders and communicators to join the team in Phoenix and help lead the church forward in the next season and beyond.
I’ve visited Phoenix and the church three times in the past 5 months and through the process, have grown in my excitement and confidence of making the decision to accept a staff position. Along the way, despite some ups and downs, God has been faithful to give both Lindsay and I peace, joy, and anticipation of all He has planned for us and our family as we move across the country. On our last visit, we found a house to rent that fits our needs (and wants…it has a pool) perfectly, only confirming the blessing of God’s timing!
At this point, our plan is to make the move out there in the next 5 weeks, with a start-date of October 1st.
It has been quite a journey over the past year and many of you have been a significant part of it and an absolutely amazing support to Lindsay and I. Thank you for all your prayers, thoughts, conversations, encouraging words, wisdom, laughter, tears, and food that you have blessed us with. We could not have gone through this without all of you, the wonderful people in our life. It will in unspeakably difficult to move so far away from all of you who we love so much, but we are excited about the adventure that God has us on!
Dugan and Lindsay
For those of you who might not be aware, I have decided to resign my position on staff at Heartland Community Church after 7 years of employment. During my time at Heartland, I have had the incredible privilege of working with the students in Genesis and Delta as well as many, many other ministries and events at Heartland over the years.
As I think back on my time at Heartland, the memories of all that I got to be a part of and see God do are too many to count. The honor I had to baptize friends, students, and strangers, the opportunities I was given to teach kids, new believers, student Bible studies, men, and weekend services, as well as the fun I had helping to create funny moments and videos with the sole purpose of making someone laugh, will all forever be treasured in my heart.
The decision to resign came a few months ago. For over a year, my wife Lindsay and I have had a growing sense that God is calling us to something new. A new season for our family, our ministry, and my job. Since that time, we have done our best to, through prayer, processing, conversation, counsel, and listening to God, wait for the Lord to reveal to us what He would like us to do. It has been an extreme faith-building time and numerous lessons in how to balance patience and waiting on God (while not being lazy) with diligence and being intentional (without getting ahead of God).
So back in the spring of 2013, we spoke with the student ministry team and the leadership of Heartland to let them know that I would be leaving my position on staff sometime in the summer.
The emotions I have experienced during this entire process have been all over the place. Fear, anticipation, excitement, stress, confusion, joy, pain, and much more. But the main things I’ve continued to feel when thinking about leaving Heartland have been sadness and gratitude.
Heartland has been our home. It’s the place where God challenged, shaped, and molded me into more of the man and minister I believe He wants me to be. I have learned so many priceless lessons about ministry and how to be the best man I can be from the staff, volunteers, and members of Heartland and I know I will never be the same because of it. Heartland is where Lindsay and I met and dated, with help from many people throughout our relationship. Heartland is the place where our 2-year old daughter has gotten to begin her life and experience friendships and God through Launch, it’s the place where Lindsay and I have been a part of the best community of friends we could have imagined, and it’s the place where I’ve been able to serve with my family and closest friends.
And because of that, I want to say thank you.
Thank you to the staff of Heartland who not only challenged me, encouraged me, took risks with me, loved me, trusted me, forgave me, pushed me, humbled me, and blessed me, but who also were my incredible friends. I can’t imagine not getting to see you all each day and I want you to know that I am a better person because of you. Thank you to all the people who have supervised me, for your patience, wisdom, and friendship. Thank you to all those who I served on a team with; you know who you are and because of you, I enjoyed every single day (well, for the most part) of coming into work and seeking how to minister the love of God as best we can.
I want to say thank you to all the amazing people that have volunteered in ministries I’ve been a part of. Your hearts of love, dedication, and passion have inspired and challenged me in so many ways. I can’t tell you the amount of times I thought to myself: They should be on staff, not me! Thank you for how you poured yourself out for the sake of others and me. It blessed me so much and you have all truly set the bar for what a volunteer in ministry should look like.
And finally, I want to say thank you to the students of Genesis and Delta. It has been my absolute privilege to lead and serve you for these past 7 years and I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without each of you. I’ve gotten to see each of you grow up and experience incredible amounts of joy and pain. I’ve gotten to see you experience God in ways I was continually blown away by. I’ve gotten to see you discover yourself and who God made you to be. I’ve gotten to learn so many things from you, probably when you didn’t even know you were teaching me. From retreats to missions trips to worship nights to ridiculous games to teachings to small groups to times in conversation to powerful prayers and even the occasional injury, I will forever think of each of you as my friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord. I hope so much that I will cross paths with each of you in the future and be able to celebrate all that God is doing through you to change the world.
At this point, Lindsay and I don’t know what’s next for us. We thought that maybe God would give us clarity on what our next step is before my time at Heartland ended, but He continues to challenge our faith and keep us seeking Him for each step. It’s a good thing He knows more than us. I’ve taken a number of trips around the country, had dozens of phone calls, filled out numerous questionnaires, been a part of many interviews, and written many, many e-mails to churches and ministries from California to Tennessee. There have been times when we thought an opportunity was going to work out, but God has continued to give us unity that it hasn’t been right quite yet.
So for now, we step out in faith, knowing that God is sovereign and in control and trusting that whatever He has for us is much better than anything we could have come up with on our own.
Please be praying for Lindsay, Eva, and myself. We are fully trusting God but also know that the road ahead might be difficult. We’re prepared to do whatever we have to do to continue waiting on the Lord, but please ask God for an abundance of patience and unity for our family and for future clarity on the next season of our lives. So far, He has been amazingly faithful and we have a continual peace that makes it clear He is with us and has a plan we get to be a part of.
If you’d like to keep up to date on our progress, we will be keeping all our social media outlets current as to our journey and eventual destination.
Thank you for your prayers and all the love you have given us. We are grateful beyond any amount of words in a letter but want you to know how much you have meant to us and that it is something we will never, ever forget.
So…I had a book published last week!
It was so exciting. I remember I began by simply realizing all that God had been teaching me through working in student ministries and then writing it all down. It was fun…until I thought I should make this into a book. Once I did that, I kept getting stuck. I had these preconceived ideas of what a ‘book’ should look like, how the wording should sound, and how it should all fit together. Eventually, I got sick of getting stuck and decided to just write down the things I had experienced, the things I had learned, and the things I enjoyed. After doing this, I found that all my thoughts actually could fit together and be ordered in a way that made sense. It was all very accidental and really proved the cliché phrase: “Write what you know.”
I’m proud of the book and I genuinely hope that it helps to encourage the men and women around the world who work, serve, or have a heart for students.
The book can be found on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Sow-What-ebook/dp/B00D1BRGNE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369751997&sr=8-1&keywords=dugan+sherbondy) or by going to www.slimbooks.com/sowwhat.
It’s only $5 and can be read in less than an hour so I would love for you to check it out.
As a Thank You for reading my blog, here’s a free look at the prologue!
The Thing You’re Supposed to Read,
Before You Read the Actual Book
Prologues are weird. I always read them because I feel like I should. I know, they set up the book and everything. But, I always just wonder, Couldn’t this have just been Chapter 1? Yet, ironically, I’d like to say something before you begin reading this book (or at the very least give you time to decide if you want to keep reading or not).
This is a short book (hence the name of the publisher). When I first felt the desire to write it, I got excited, overwhelmed, discouraged, bitter, and then lazy—in that order—because the thought of having to piece together a 935-page, Lord of the Rings-sized pyramid brick was a little too much for me to swallow. So, I decided to just write something short and to the point. It contains the same material I’ve always wanted to write, but without all the “fluff.” My hope and prayer is that it will challenge you, inspire you, or at least spark an idea that might help you connect students to Jesus.
A Little About Me
My name is Dugan. Yes, Dugan is my real name. It’s not a nickname. And, yes, it’s my first name—even though my parents found it as a surname in a phonebook. Yes, it’s weird and I have to spell it for people all the time. But, on the other hand, it’s rare that people, using only my first name, confuse me with someone else. It might be the only attribute that I share with Oprah.
Here is the truth: I never felt specifically called to youth ministry. At the beginning of my senior year in high school, all of my friends had already been applying and been accepted to various colleges, and I thought, “Maybe I should figure that out…” I prayed throughout my senior year, asking God to tell me what He wanted me to do, but I didn’t feel a leading until graduation was fast approaching. I guess God wanted to keep me waiting as long as possible before giving clarity (which was totally not stressful or frustrating at all).
One night as I was worshipping at church, I felt as if the heavens opened and I finally heard God speak to me about what He wanted me to do. I understand that’s a dramatic statement and it wasn’t like I heard God speak to me like Simba heard James Earl Jones speak to him from the stars in The Lion King. Nor did He send an angel or write something on a wall or pyro a bush on fire. But in that moment, I very clearly sensed God speak to me about what He wanted me to do.
After months of praying and waiting, I felt God give me direction. The message was clear. God was telling me to go into ministry. Not any type of ministry specifically, but I really sensed Him telling me to be open to any and every opportunity. Teaching, missions, youth, church planting, whatever. Just be open to it all. So, I was.
I started going to college at a Bible college in California via online courses, which enabled me to work and make money to pay for school, continue to volunteer at church, and put what I was learning into practice. Near the end of my journey towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Theological Studies, I was extremely blessed to get a job at Heartland Community Church, a healthy, growing community in northern Illinois close to where I was born and grew up.
I joined the staff at Heartland as a pastor to junior high students. I led that ministry for a while, and recently began to work on student discipleship with junior high, high school, and college students – all of which has been incredible. I have been beyond blessed. I get paid to make fart jokes on stage (which works well with my personality) and have a blast connecting with students and teaching them the love of Jesus.
The experiences I have had, the people I have led and been led by, and the students I got to know have helped form my beliefs about what a healthy youth ministry looks like. The thoughts I have to offer in this book come from older and wiser people that I worked with, directly from the mouth of students, or from times in the past few years when I was dead wrong about things and God taught me a lesson.
I do know that the nature of student ministry is different (sometimes drastically different) from church to church, city to city, leader to leader, budget to budget, team to team, group of students to group of students, and whichever Justin Bieber single happens to be out at the time. So, with that said, there is no “right” way to do student ministry. These are just some things that have worked for me. I pray that God uses my experiences to benefit you.
I’ve worked in student ministry for six years. Six years might not seem like a long time, but 18 months is about the average length of time a person stays working in student ministries. Often, people tend to quickly move out of student ministries into a different role in the church. A few things have been made clear to me about this. For one, students value consistency very highly. They experience so much inconsistency outside the walls of our ministries with broken families and shallow friendships that the discipline to remain in a student role for a significant amount of time can have a huge impact on them. In addition, by staying in a student ministry role for 4+ years, you will actually get to experience some of the fruits of your labor in the live of students, which I’ll get to later.
What I hope most is that you take what I write and apply to it your own gifts and ministries. Principles are more important than the methods that facilitate them. So, take the principles, consider the methods, and do what is best for your particular context. Whether you are a veteran in student ministry, a newbie, or somewhere in the middle, I hope I can offer you some helpful insight. Ultimately, this book is really meant to do one thing: Encourage you. If I’m going to be really honest, in the six years I have worked in student ministries I’ve discovered that the greatest need of anybody who is leading or working in youth ministry is encouragement.
I’d like to comment on the frustration surrounding people who post a ton of pictures of their kids on Instagram, Twitter, FaceBook, and any other social media outlet.
I’m being a little hypocritical since I post so many pictures of my daughter while I also get annoyed at parents who post 13 pictures of their kids an hour.
But then I deduced (thanks, Sherlock) something.
This is a sign of a good parent.
Good parents over-Instragram.
This isn’t to say that parents who don’t post a lot of pictures of their kids are bad parents, but I think that generally, “over-posting” pictures of their kids, is an indication of a good parent.
When a child is born, in the blink of an eye, a person’s entire world suddenly flips upside down. All their free times, TV shows, golf, pointless internet surfing, movie-watching, and house cleaning is replaced with the life of this little, 100% dependent little person that, despite not doing much other than eating, sleeping, and pooping, you like a whole lot.
And aside from those parents who decide to neglect their children, there are really then two choices:
A). Resent your child for forcing you to sacrifice all your selfishness
B) Make your life all about them.
I have chosen B.
It’s not always fun. I don’t always like giving up certain things I want to do, it’s sometimes stressful, and I wish I’d thrown a “goodbye sleeping-in” party to mourn it properly. But the countless moments of love, joy, and delight that my daughter gives me are nothing compared to what I gave up.
So what do I do?
I try to capture every moment. I fill up my phone with pictures and videos that I have to transfer to my computer week after week to make more space for more pictures and videos, I daily send pictures and videos to family and friends, and I post dozens of pictures and videos to any social media outlet for people to get just a glimpse of what most of my life consists of these days and how wonderful it is.
And for those of you who are still annoyed, let me know if you need help finding the ‘unfollow’ button.
I recently and very accidentally discovered a way to read the Bible that is so powerful and so much fun.
I have been in a season of feeling called by God to seek out what He has next for me and our family, yet not receiving a great deal of clarity on what that is. And as I was reading in the Old Testament the other day, I happened to be reading the story of Abraham.
Genesis 12:1-4a says: The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed…
After a little more research, I realized that these promises didn’t come true until over 500 and 600 years later when Abraham wasn’t even alive!
And suddenly I was encouraged. I felt a sense of peace, knowing that God might not show me everything in front of me and that’s okay. He just asks that I take steps forward when He calls me to. Abraham didn’t see what God was going to do in his life and the life of his descendants, in fact he never saw it. But he was obedient and moved forward in faith when God called him to.
And that was exactly what I needed to hear.
After realizing this, I began thinking about all the incredible stories and people in the Bible. Granted they are powerful in any situation (you know, being the Word of God and all) but then I began thinking how I wonder if these accounts could offer even more insight, wisdom, power, truth, encouragement, and challenge when they are read by somebody going through a very similar situation.
I was in a season of sensing God to ask me to move forward by faith and not by sight, just like Abraham. And by reading his story, it spoke to me in a way that was so fresh and powerful, like God was speaking directly to me through Abraham.
So I started thinking about all the accounts in Scripture that could offer such power and hope when read by someone going through the same thing. The Bible is full of so much wisdom and sometimes the power of story is what speaks most powerfully. Just like Jesus telling parables, the way a story can speak to us can be more impactful than anything else, especially when the story is true!
So if you’re stuck on what to read in the Bible, try reading an account about someone in a similar season of life as you.
Uncertain future – Abraham
Pain – Job
In love – Song of Songs
Doubt – Psalm 77
Temped – Jesus in the desert
Passionate – Paul
And these are just a few examples. There are many, many more stories and people and moments that might be exactly where we find ourselves at a moment in time that God can use to speak directly to us.
There are so many great ways to experience God’s Word, this way just spoke to me in a moment that I needed it.
If it doesn’t work for you, I usually go with the flip-through-the-Bible-and-randomly-point-at-a-verse technique which is kinds of hit or miss (usually miss).