My wife and I moved to Phoenix to join Valley Life | Tramonto in November 2016. In January 2017, the church celebrated its fifth anniversary. By the time I joined the staff, the team had five years of shared stories, a common vernacular that was foreign to me, and inside jokes that I politely nodded along to. It was very clear that we were late to the party. I knew that in order to actually make an impact at the church and in the community, we would have to shed a number of discomforts and dig deep quickly.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Our journey to Valley Life took some strange turns, but along the way I learned lessons that proved invaluable in coming into the church. The interview process took longer than most in my job history. The church wanted to know exactly who they were hiring. I wanted to know exactly what we were stepping into. I asked questions about the culture of the staff, the relationship with Brian, the lead pastor, and the rest of the staff, and how the leadership structure worked. Who would I actually report to and what were their expectations for me and my family? This took longer than I was accustomed to, but in the end it made the transition into the church and culture nearly seamless.
Ask the Awkward Questions Early
Arguably the best thing I did when I got to Valley Life was ask Brian tough, sometimes awkward questions to better understand him as a leader and better understand how the leadership developed the current culture. I asked him about some of his greatest failures as a husband and pastor, and in turn shared mine. This helped develop trust between us, and I believe it deepened our relationship much faster than if we had let the relationship grow normally. Taking the steps to ask hard questions and having the vulnerability to be honest about victories and losses was not easy, but Brian and I both wanted to serve the church well, and that meant growing our relationship quickly.
As much as I succeeded in getting to know Brian and a few other leaders, I failed to trust leaders on my team. I had learned to trust slowly, and this character flaw hurt my team. Several months in, I had to sit down with a few team members to reassure them that I loved them and cared about a real relationship with them. Again, many on my team had years of shared memories, so they were accustomed to a certain amount of team unity and trust.
My hesitancy toward jumping in and sharing my life and experiences with them hindered our growth because I wanted it to occur naturally. With the mission to make disciples and plant churches ever before us, there is no time to let those leadership relationships build naturally. It took some great team members who saw my insecurity and called me out on it to remind me of the nature of the mission. We spent focused, intentional time together, and those leaders are now great friends and team members.
Joining a church plant is difficult. You have to move quickly, and the process necessitates vulnerability, trust, and humility from everyone involved. But the joy that comes from impacting a team and building friendships that will last into eternity is priceless.