Dugan Sherbondy bio picture

    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! Check out Dugan's newest book "Never Alone" and shoot him an email 72,69,82,69,46.EREH

Stupid Mark Zuckerberg

Maybe that’s unfair. I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg is stupid. He’s actually the exact opposite. I’m sure he’s a good person and I enjoy Jessie Eisenberg and Facebook (except the dumb requests I get 7 times an hour to play Candy Crush or “like” that page on defending the rights of dandelions).

The issue (for me) with Mark Zuckerberg’s story is that he became wildly successful at a very young age. And he’s not the only person to accomplish major success during their teen years or 20’s. People like Jennifer Lawrence, Lucy Li, Jaden Smith, Justin Bieber, Francisco Molinari, Taylor Swift, Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus, the Olson Twins, the guys who sold YouTube, those random homeschooled kids who graduate college when they’re 12, or Macaulay Culkin in Richie Rich all come to mind as well.

There are a so many young men and women around the world who strike it rich or famous (or both) during puberty or before they can legally drink. And it’s great! Our culture (appropriately) celebrates these people and their accomplishments by further expanding the attention put on them simply because of what they’ve done for their age.


The problem I see (and have experienced) with this, is that it puts a subconscious pressure on me to think I have to be wildly successful when I’m young and if/when I don’t, I’ve failed.

And the Christian world isn’t immune to this either. I remember being at a Catalyst conference in Atlanta the first time Steven Furtick spoke and the way he was introduced was mostly focused on how remarkably gifted he was for such a young age. Of course, that ended up being true and his teaching was amazing, but in the back of my head there was a seed planted that continued to feed this presumption that the longer it took me to become “successful” (even in a Christian, ministry context), the worse I was doing.

I think the world we live in of 24 year old millionaires and 13 year old doctors has put an unrealistic and unhealthy subconscious expectation on our generation of what success is meant to look like.

When it comes to being a student pastor, there’s always the attraction to somehow (as soon as possible) reach the level of recognition that Craig Groeschell or John Ortberg has. (side note: I’m sure the level of fame men and women like them have attained comes with a massive list of difficulties that need to be wisely navigated through…so keep in mind the always true phrases: “Be Careful What You Wish For” and “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side”) But I wonder if this self-expectation is actually hurting our heart for ministry.

The more we long for fame, the more we miss the people right in front of us. The more we hope for riches, the more we miss the blessings right in front of us. The more we strive for worldly or even ministry success, the more we fail the day-t0-day ministry that’s been given to us.


What if God is most proud of all the student pastors out there who faithfully pour into the 5 students that come each week, not annoyed they haven’t grown to above the 10% average attendance of their church? I realize there’s something to be said for ministry growth and not being okay with a dying or unhealthy ministry. I definitely think it’s important to always be thinking about how to engage people and students who aren’t and reach the lost. But the heart of a person to genuinely minister to a few instead of be distracted by the lack of many is something I believe God truly loves.

For the tens of thousands of student pastors who have been blessed with leading a ministry of five or ten or 100 students, I believe their treasure in heaven is directly proportionate to their heart for those students, not necessarily the size of their group. I don’t think Jesus is going to be as concerned with numbers as much as He’s concerned with our hearts.

I remember some of my most joy-filled years of doing ministry was when I was leading a middle school group of about 150 students. I truly loved those students and my heart was so passionate about how to lead them more towards God. But the minute I would start thinking about my own personal gain or success, my discontent started edging out my heart for what God wanted to do right in front of me.

And the truth is that ministry leaders who experience massive success at the age of 25 is great but that’s not the expectation, that’s the exception. God isn’t expecting a global Church filled with Christian Justin Biebers (what a terrifying thought). In fact, I think He is more proud of the student pastor who humbly and passionately and wisely leads their group of 25 students every Wednesday night.


I’ve heard and seen people like Jon Acuff, Bob Buford and Robert Lewis talk about a super encouraging concept in regards to this as they’ve broken down the different stages of life. According to them:

Our 20’s are Learning

Our 30’s are Editing

Our 40’s are Mastering

Our 50’s are Harvesting

And our 60’s Guiding

I love this. It is such a freeing concept. According to this, the expectation to achieve “success” doesn’t really come until we’re in our 40’s! That means that it’s okay if we fail in our 20’s! It’s okay if we miss the mark or have to readjust or recalibrate in our 20’s or even 30’s! We have about half our life to get to a place where we’re finally hitting our stride. Up until that point, we’re still in the lab figuring it out!

So instead of feeling pressure to do or be something by a certain age or time, let’s feel the appropriate burden of whatever God has put right in front of us. If you’re leading a ministry of 1000 students, do it to the best of your ability and continue to grow and challenge yourself. if you’re leading a small group of 3 students, be the best gosh-darn leader of those students that you possibly can be. You might not make the cover of Relevant magazine, but someday I believe you’ll hear how proud God is of you, directly from Him.

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November 21, 2014 - 6:04 PM

Casey Bankord - Awesome stuff Dugan. Definitely agree.

December 29, 2014 - 2:16 AM

Jeff Goins - I feel that same pressure. And at 31, I feel like a total failure. But it’s not because I haven’t accomplished anything. It’s because I’m unfairly comparing one story to another.

I do think it’s helpful to not only look at early success but to ask yourself what did they do to get here? In the case of Zuckerberg there’s lots of back story. When I was wasting my teens and twenties, he was practicing. Makes total sense.

Cry Night

All youth pastors love “Cry Night.”

Even if we don’t want to admit it because it feels (and probably is) a little selfish, we love it. I know I did.

In case you don’t know what “Cry Night” is, let me explain: “Cry Night” is the night (usually Saturday on a weekend retreat and Thursday or Friday on a week-long camp) when students’ emotions are most primed to respond to God’s Spirit moving. It’s the night when students surrender their past, release their sin, cross the line of faith, raise their hands in worship, hug each other, seek prayer from their leader, stand arm-in-arm while swaying during worship, and yes,  cry.

The stories the next morning usually start with: “There wasn’t a dry eye in my group.” or “All my guys gathered around and prayed for Bobby who was crying.” or “My girls kept saying they hadn’t cried that long in a while.”

And it’s great! I’m not saying these kind of nights or experiences are bad or inauthentic. It’s absolutely fantastic to watch God move and watch students experience a new level of freedom and connection to Him and the people around them. In fact, it’s one of the best things I ever experienced as a youth pastor.

However, the trap I found myself falling into is the discouragement, doubt, and confusion when Cry Night didn’t happen.

Did I do something wrong?

Did I not do something I should have?

Was my teaching not good enough?

Should we have changed that one worship song?

Did I fail the students somehow?


The thesis of my book “Sow What?” (NOW FREE!!!) is based on some significant frustration I experienced in leading student ministry. While it was so wonderful to have a job thinking creatively about how to connect students to God, what I found again and again was that no matter how much I poured into students, whether through a well thought-out teaching or over the course of a season of discipling them, so frequently, I didn’t see anything change. They still talked the same, acted the same, and weren’t any more passionate about their relationship with God. They still disrespected their parents, dating girls they shouldn’t, and stood like a statue during worship.

I kept thinking I was doing something wrong or not doing enough. I got mad at God, mad at myself, discouraged, frustrated, and demotivated over and over again. I definitely saw God work and do some amazing transformation in some students, but it felt like the vast majority of students (and especially the ones I was more directly pouring into) weren’t making any progress whatsoever.

After years of this, I experienced God speaking and teaching me something: Student Ministries can be a fruitless ministry.

Or maybe a better way to say it would be: Student Ministries is a seed-planting ministry.

In “The Parable of the Sower”, Jesus uses an illustration indicates that only 25% of the seeds sown might actually take root and produce fruit. That’s a pretty terrible percentage!

25% on a test, you fail!
25% of your daily nutrition, you’re sick!
25% of your free-throws, you’re Dwight Howard!

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sow seeds. It just means we might not see their fruit.

And this is what I believe student ministries is: A time to sow seeds that God will then use to bear fruit, more often than not, at a later time.

And time and time again, as I’ve talked with wiser and more experienced student ministers, they talk about getting an email or phone call or running into a former student who thanked them for a teaching or conversation or text or prayer that significantly encouraged them from years before. Most of the time, the youth pastor didn’t even remember it or think anything of it at that time, but God used it to plant a seed that He would then later bear fruit with once the student was in college, their 20’s, or even later.

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.– 1 Corinthians 3:7


Because youth pastors have an authentic heart to impact students, and become sometimes the students they’re ministering to don’t bear fruit right away, many youth pastors find themselves striving for some sign of their hard work making a difference. Something..anything that can be seen as a positive result of their labor!

With great intentions and pure motives, I’ve seen and experienced myself longing for some sign of God doing SOMETHING in students’ lives, especially in a way that affirms the time and energy I’ve poured out to make that happen.

And without realizing it, I began to find this encouragement at “Cry Night.” Here was a tangible, obvious indication of God impacting students that my tired heart soaked up like a sponge.

And that’s great!…until there isn’t a Cry Night.

I once heard Craig Groeschel, talking about ministry attendance, say: Don’t blame yourself for the decline, because if you blame yourself for the decline you may be tempted one day to take credit for the increase.

As a youth pastor, I realized I need to be careful to not blame myself for an apparent lack of growth in students’ lives, because then I might be tempted to take credit for those times when they do grow. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pour our and minister and pastor and strive with everything I can to connect students to God, but my job isn’t to force an outcome. My job is to plant the seed and then pray and trust God to accomplish what I cannot: transformation.

Cry-Night’s and other obvious signs of students growing are fantastic, but when they don’t happen, be encouraged. Knowing that you are sowing the seeds that God will then cultivate and use for His glory and the blessing of those students.


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October 23, 2014 - 11:34 PM

Larry Nass - Your piece reminded me of another crying incident where I learned something. When I played the role of Peter in The Choice, I was always hoping to get so far into the role and feel what Peter felt that I would actually weep during the death and burial of Jesus. I felt that my acting was more authentic and powerful if I was moved to tears. Well, not so. I was told (perhaps by Steve Pederson) that the impact of the character was there for the audience whether or not I felt “into” the character enough to cry. It was God annointing me and the hearts of the audience that made the impact. I was supposed to “act”. Sometimes that may mean I don’t “feel” it in the moment. Heck, that is what acting is. Anyway, not sure how this connects to your blog, but to say that maybe, even if they don’t cry, you may still have been annointed and their hearts did receive. That seed may not germinate for some time, but it is in their heart.

October 27, 2014 - 1:47 AM

Nancy Ray - So so good. After being a wife to a student minister for 4.5 years this rings so true! Thank you for your heart and this perspective. We’ve just begun to see the fruit coming out in kids lives later on: in college, and even a few who are starting to get married!! Keep speaking truth and encouragement to youth pastors who are in the thick of it all!

Let’s Hang Out!

Hey, friends!

Here’s a brief update:

Lindsay, Eva, and I are getting settled in Nashville and liking it a lot so far! It’s a beautiful area with a lot of really fun stuff to do. Some great restaurants and really close to downtown. The weather is nice because it’s not as hot as Phoenix and the winter won’t be as harsh as northern Illinois, so hopefully it’s the best of both worlds! However, we’re not fans of the bugs or humidity so I’m hoping my sweat can double as some sort of natural insect repellant.

I’m beginning to work towards publishing a couple writing projects including a book and a middle school spiritual gifts experience. I’m also actively pursuing more opportunities to speak! I’m looking to schedule as many student teaching opportunities during this fall and winter as I can and would love to ask for your help!

I’m looking to schedule teaching opportunities at:

Student Weekend Retreats
Student Camps
Student Events
College Ministries
Youth Groups
Dog Shows (as long as John O’Hurley is there)

I was blessed to have a super fun and super packed summer as I had chances to speak to students all across the country from California to Maryland and Texas to Wisconsin. Here are a few things people said about my time there:

“Dugan is truly one of the most creative, gifted communicators I have ever witnessed! His humor, wit, and charisma compel you to want to hang on to his every word. He is an incredible collaborator, and he has the unique ability to take lots of ideas and succinctly bring a powerful, unified message to life. It’s so very rare to see someone with the combination of God-given talents that Dugan possesses, but I am grateful and inspired to see the enormous difference he’s making in the Kingdom…he’s one of a kind.” – Angela Wade Simpson (Project: Home, 2014)

“Dugan is great at what he does…captivates the audience. He did a great job keeping the attention of the students through the use of his jokes and illustrations. He was also able to present the topic at hand with depth and understanding. Students have already requested for him to speak again next year.” – Amy Smith (Adventure Camp, 2014)

“He’s a brave, insightful speaker, full of creativity, keeping us laughing so we understand him on a personal, real level and making us listen when it truly counts. He’s a real joy for both adults and students alike!” – Ivy Castle (Project: Home, 2014)

“Dugan was able to masterfully weave our theme and passages that we wanted with his own personal stories and creative sermons to produce a relevant and authentic message for our students.”– Jason Fullen (Reality Week, 2014)

“We have wanted Dugan to be our main speaker for the past two years for our summer camp. He is a great story-teller, knows how to grab student’s attention and describe to them Christ’s great love for us. He is funny, and engages with students both when speaking and during camp time. Tons of our students ask for him back each year, and many of them have personal stories of how Dugan talked to them, or how something he said really resonated with them. He was involved in pre-service meetings, and had creative ideas to help our team plan. He followed time sensitive agendas so our team could get everything done and planned for our camp!” – Taylor Parra (Reality week, 2014)

So, if you are looking for a speaker or if you know of someone who is, please get in touch with me! I’d love to come hang out with and teach your students!

I’m even offering a 25% discount for any contract during Fall of 2014 and Winter of 2015, so spread the word.

Thank you so much and let me know if you have any questions! Otherwise let me know when I can come serve your ministry!

Also don’t forget to get your copy of and spread the word about a free digital copy of my book HERE!



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A New Way To Do Student Ministries?

This is a story of the only mistake I’ve ever made.

Early in my student ministry career, I knew my heart was definitely drawn towards teaching. I loved leading and building teams and everything else that went along with leading a ministry, but I really, really loved teaching. The best part of my week was when I was able to lock my office door so I could study and write, followed by the joy of speaking to a room full of students.

After a year or so of this, I found myself having frequent conversations with students where they would excitedly tell me about what God was doing in their lives by saying things like:

“My small group leader was praying for me and said….”


“This other girl in my small group is going through the same thing and encouraged me by…”


“We were praying as a small group and this guy prayed for me and it totally spoke to me because…”

I began to see a pattern.

Nobody was saying: “Dugan, I know all the glory goes to God, but that teaching to gave last week totally changed my life!” or “I will never forget that one thing you said in your teaching!”

Granted, I believe teaching is a spiritual gift from God that He uses is powerful ways. But what began to become clear to me is that: Students Grow Through Community.

I know what you’re thinking: “Um…duh.”

But for me, it was a significant learning. From that point on, I still poured a lot into my teaching (because I loved it), but we made some significant shifts in our budget, time, and other resources towards the small groups, knowing that that was where God was taking the teaching and worship and fun and using them to truly impact the lives of students.

A while ago, my friend Casey sent me an article about the “Flipped Classroom” that I found fascinating and also made me think of how modern student ministries can learn the importance of personal engagement over powerful stage presentation.

Check out the information in the graphic below and also, I’ve made a few more than one mistake…it’s more like 2 or 3…gazillion…



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