By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
WILMINGTON, Del.—Effective Sept. 1, Mitch Dowell, associate executive director for Embrace Baltimore, was named executive director for Embrace Wilmington. Until Jan. 1, Dowell will transition from his present duties in Baltimore to focus full time in Delaware’s largest city.
In 1998, in recognition of the changing face of the cities, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and its partners began focusing their attention on some of the major metropolitan areas in North America with the purpose of increasing evangelism and church planting exponentially.
One of the first cities was in Chicago, where Dowell served as a pastor on the first Strategic Focus City team. Coupled with his experience as an Army Sergeant Major, where he developed strategy for combat operations, trained soldiers and determined military courses of action, Dowell was uniquely prepared to serve in Baltimore’s Strategic Focus City initiative.
In the spring of 2005, Dowell and his wife Rosetta moved to Baltimore, where Dowell served as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) urban strategist, setting the stage for the Embrace Baltimore initiative.
In that capacity, he worked alongside Baltimore churches, met pastors and other leaders, determined their needs, caught their visions and helped them minister to the unique people in their individual locales.
When NAMB officially invited Baltimore to be a strategic focus city, Dowell took on a greater leadership role, eventually becoming the associate executive director of Embrace Baltimore.
Now that the effort is winding down, Dowell shares several things that he learned from his past three years with Embrace Baltimore.
The greatest lesson he learned was that relationships were most important.
“In order to reach into the metro-Baltimore region, you have to really develop great relationships with the region’s pastors and leaders,” he said. “Pastors need to know that you love them.”
To that end, his first effort will be to visit all 26 churches in the Dela-ware Assoc-iation (DBA), beginning with those in the Wilmington and Newcastle areas. He wants to get to know the church leaders, and he wants them to get to know him.
Accordingly, on Oct. 2, during Delaware Association’s annual meeting, Dowell will be a guest speaker.
Also, at that meeting, there will be a celebratory signing of a partnership covenant that signifies the official beginning of Embrace Wilmington.
Secondly, Dowell stressed the importance of partnerships.
Nearly 9,000 partners (including mission teams and other volunteers) came into Baltimore, revealing that partners were key in helping church plants and existing churches to do what they do. Embrace Baltimore organizers are still getting reports from churches who want to come back to serve and establish long-term partnerships with churches in Baltimore, he said.
“Now, Baltimore pastors are excited about doing short-term mission trips in other states, just as other churches have come into Baltimore,” shared Dowell.
He said he hopes to see that same excitement in the churches of the Delaware Association. He’d like to encourage the DBA churches to get involved in doing local missions in their own towns and cities, including Wilmington, even as he encourages churches outside Delaware to minister in the city.
Finally, Dowell pointed to sports camps as the effort’s most successful tool for outreach.
“To reach all varieties of people, sports camps seem to be the ticket. You not only reach little kids, but also teenagers and adults,” he said, noting that DBA’s existing partnership with Wilmington Games presents great opportunities for reaching people for Christ.
Moving forward, Dowell seeks to have an Embrace Wilmington strategy development retreat in November.
At this retreat, leaders will discuss what this city’s effort will look like, focusing on the following four areas: church strengthening, evangelism, community impact and church starting.
To learn more, or to become a partner for Embrace Wilmington, contact Dowell at (410) 707-7614.