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Mentoring Under 40 Leaders

Gary Grogan finds a new ministry focus resourcing young pastors.
Gary Wayne Grogan retired in December 2016 after leading Stone Creek Church for 29 years. While leading the congregation in Urbana, Illinois, Grogan, affectionately known as “Papa G,” also mentored dozens of young pastors around the country.

Even before Grogan retired, Illinois District Council Superintendent Phil B. Schneider asked him if he would consider an ongoing arrangement of mentoring young pastors around the state. Grogan agreed to a consultant role approved by district presbyters.

The need to encourage young pastors isn’t specific to Illinois. The number of Assemblies of God ministers under 40 has been declining gradually all century. Even with a record number of credential holders, the average age of an ordained minister in the U.S. Assemblies of God is at an all-time high of 60. Half of the more than 37,600 AG ministers are 60 or older. Only 21.2 percent of AG ministers are under age 40, an all-time low.

“The problem is not that our ministers are getting older,” says Grogan, 66. “The problem is we are not getting and keeping new ones. Our young people are not going in the ministry, not staying in the ministry, or not staying in our tribes. We have to be more intentional about young men and women in leadership.”

Grogan says the new post is loosely structured and designed to be highly relational. His role is to assist district leaders in mentoring, coaching, and being a spiritual father to budding ministers. This is accomplished through team collaboration, intentional events, and personal contacts. One day Grogan may facilitate a face-to-face session with a half a dozen ministry leaders, and the next day he will mentor others over the phone.

Part of Grogan’s job is simply to help younger ministers develop healthy work habits: managing time, developing church budgets, leading meetings, casting vision.

Grogan is a proponent of trusting young pastors with significant responsibilities. He believes the dropout rate of young pastors is high because, in part, vocational ministry isn’t as valued as much as in previous generations and fewer young people are attuned to hearing the Lord’s calling.

“Leadership and success have become idols in our culture,” Grogan says. “The younger generation has been falsely taught that people will be hanging on their every word and they should be making lots of money.”

Scott D. Love has been a licensed AG minister in Illinois since 2005, serving as a church planter, youth pastor, and campus pastor. Love now is associate pastor at Christian Life Fellowship in Antioch. He connected with Grogan last October at a leadership conference. Grogan — who has preached in more than 50 nations — quickly invited Love along to a weeklong leadership training event in Cuba. Love had been praying to participate in such an overseas ministry opportunity.

Since being saved 20 years ago at City First Church in Rockford, Love says he’s had several mentors, but most have been peers. Papa G proved to be different.

“He instantly became a father figure I can respect,” says Love, 36. “He invested in me on that trip, and not just by conforming to all the formulas that are out there. He imparted genuine wisdom from the Lord.”

Now, Love says he can reach out to Grogan when he’s facing a difficult decision or he needs an elder’s perspective.

“He’s going to listen to what’s going on with me, pray with me, and really join with me in asking the Holy Spirit for direction,” Love says. “I can’t get that in an online resource.”

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.