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Leadership Transition at New Life

What's Happening?

Nearly twenty-five years ago, God led Pastor Dan and Pastor Kevin to start a multiethnic, Spirit-filled church in Hampton Roads that would endeavor to bridge the ethnic divide in our communities. From that point until today, God’s grace has been seen in a vibrant, healthy church of all nations. New Life Church has been blessed to see souls saved, lives healed, families strengthened, leaders equipped, missionaries sent, and disciples made.  

Over time, a unique and compelling church culture has been curated in New Life – one that Pastor Dan and others have helped shape in New Life for many years. It is our desire that the DNA of New Life Church will continue to be passed on for future generations.  

To ensure a fruitful future of New Life Church, Pastor Dan and the leadership of the church sense that this is the kairos time to pass the leadership of the church onto another generation’s capable hands. As a result, this past June, Pastor Dan announced a year-long transition plan to pass the baton to Pastor Joel Solomon. This transition will culminate on June 16th, 2024 with Pastor Dan shifting from Senior Pastor to Founding Pastor and Pastor Joel being appointed and anointed in his new role as Lead Pastor of New Life Church.  

About Pastor Joel

Joel was raised in a pastor’s home in a small city in Michigan. With no specific desire to go into vocational ministry, he initially enrolled to become a medical doctor; but was a bit science deficient. During that time, while serving as a chaplain of a 120-voice gospel choir, he sensed a leading to pursue pastoral work. This pursuit led Joel to Virginia Beach and Regent University.  

For the last 20 years, Joel has served in New Life Church in a myriad of capacities: youth pastor, young adult pastor, campus pastor of two campuses, executive pastor, and now currently senior associate pastor. He has also led a dozen mission trips. Joel has developed the critical skill set that is required to successfully lead a multi-site church with inspiring vision, great preaching, and sound organizational/financial abilities. 

Joel met his wife, Avery, a native of Virginia Beach, in the young adult ministry at New Life. They met, dated, got engaged, and married in about an 8-month time frame. Four kids and a bunny later, they have an active happy family and remain deeply connected to the Hampton Roads community.  

Joel holds four degrees from three schools: Hope College, Regent University, and George Washington University. Along with being an avid lover of food— specifically, any combination of dark chocolate and peanut butter—and a fan of all things Star Wars, he and Avery deeply value seeing people grow into their full potential in God, through life-giving mentoring relationships.  


Pastor Dan will have a special role in New Life as founding pastor. As a spiritual father, he will continue to influence Pastor Joel. As an elder, he will have a critical voice in key leadership decisions with the church. He will remain on the New Life Church staff and will be a part of the peaching team, preaching about 10 times a year. Additionally, Pastor Dan is excited to have more time to serve and develop One Focus Network, as the senior director. (One Focus is the network of churches that New Life is a part of).  

Pastor Dan initiated a discussion, about a year and a half ago, that it might be time for the church to start thinking about being led by a younger pastor. He and the elders processed this possible transition with the appropriate weight and honor that this kind of change deserved. Pastor Dan and the elder board did their due diligence and appointed a transition team, all of which led up to last June’s public announcement. All along the way there has been a unanimous consensus with the elders, the staff, and the Backens/Solomons to move forward. The overall process was thorough, prayerful, and enjoyable. 

In April of 2023, the elders met and unanimously voted to appoint Joel as the future lead pastor.  

In June of 2023, Pastor Dan announced a one-year transition.  

In June of 2024, the one-year transition will culminate at the church’s 25th anniversary celebration. 

While we as a church are continuing to contend and pray for Pastor Dan in his journey towards complete healing from cancer, this decision was not based on his current health status (which is very good). Rather, Pastor Dan felt it was a divine time for the change. Pastor Dan will be 67 years old and Pastor Joel will be 44 years old when the handing of the baton of leadership is complete.  

Pastor Dan likes to say he is not retiring but rather just transitioning into a different role. He is enthusiastic about helping Pastor Joel and the congregation, in any way he can, to help move New Life into her preferred future.  

While undoubtedly time will bring change, the core DNA of New Life Church will remain the same and the vision will continue to develop to meet the needs of the church and the community. The best is yet to come.