Churches and other Christian bodies bear a responsibility to organize more Christian social agencies, says this Bible college spokesman

At Philadelphia College of Bible, a new prong has been added to the long-established ministry to the city. In the new social-work undergraduate curriculum, the college is acknowledging and dealing with today’s inner-city crises.

Concern in this area is not new at the college. It saw extreme inner-city conditions in the second decade of this century, when it began. Since then, through days of prosperity and days of depression, it has consistently ministered to the poor, even before the word “poverty” was rediscovered. This ministry was carried on through the practical-work departments of the two Bible institutes that later merged to form the present college, and it is continuing through the present Department of Christian Service. The “new prong”—the Department of Social Work—will augment the general thrust by training workers for urban areas. And non-urban areas will not be overlooked.

Philadelphia College of Bible is not entering into undergraduate social-work training solely because of the plight of the Philadelphia inner city. Urbanization is taking place the world around. In view of the prospect that by the year 2000, 80 to 90 per cent of the people of the world will be living in or dependent upon cities, the college has established this new department along with a strategy called “Urban Advance.” This strategy takes into account the reality that cities have many things in common, yet differ widely from one another. New York, Buenos Aires, and Singapore, for instance, are both similar and yet very different.

The social-work program at Philadelphia College of Bible is in the best Bible institute-Bible college tradition of required student ministries. When Dwight L. Moody was asked why he had organized the school that later became Moody Bible Institute, he said that, besides training students in the knowledge and the use of the Bible and in gospel music, he wanted to train them “in everything that will give them access practically to the souls of the people, especially the neglected classes” (Bernard DeRemer, Moody Bible Institute: A Pictorial History, Moody, 1960, p. 30).

If Mr. Moody were on the scene today, he might well have been the first to see a whole new field of service open to Christian workers. The social-work profession is acknowledging the need to train workers in undergraduate courses for two main reasons. First, the population explosion is increasing the number of people on earth, which means there are more problems to be solved. Second, there is no likelihood that graduate schools of social work alone can train enough persons to meet the need in the foreseeable future (see Wilbur J. Cohen, “The Role of the Federal Government in Expanding Social Work Manpower,” Indicators, United States Dept, of Health, Education and Welfare, March, 1965, p. 20).

Article continues below

At meetings of the Council on Social Work Education held in New York City this past January, the social-work profession featured its long-continuing survey of the prospect of more concentrated undergraduate training for workers. Just as medicine has its “pre-med” and law its pre-law courses, so will social work more and more have its pre-social-work sequences in undegraduate schools of social work. Others will go directly into social work, in such roles as caseworkers, group workers, and residential care workers. Nearly all these workers will then get in-service training. As social workers become licensed by the various states (a process now taking place), social-work training on all levels will become imperative.

Christian social agencies very much need born-again workers, especially those who go on to graduate school and qualify to become administrators. State laws more and more are requiring executives to have the master’s degree in social work. Lack of administrators with this level of training often jeopardizes the start or continuation of new agencies and services.

Another factor leading Philadelphia College of Bible into the present course is the ground swell from churches in its constituency. As social problems and the evils that often accompany them increase, young people are asking the churches and the churches are asking the colleges, “Why aren’t you preparing people to deal with delinquency, child abuse, problems of the aging, and the like?”

In reply, Philadelphia College of Bible is saying that for several years it has seen this need. Over five years ago, Dean Clarence E. Mason, Jr., decided to consider ways of providing special training in social welfare. When President Douglas B. MacCorkle later came on the scene, his own awareness of these issues merged with that of an already alerted board of trustees, and the new Bible social work major was launched.

In this venture the college is in no sense endorsing the “social gospel.” Rather it is facing up to the implications of the Gospel for society at large. Our Christian schools have long trained foreign missionaries to perform medical and other social service for people and at the same time give them the Gospel; surely the same practice is desirable in our own homeland.

Article continues below

This is not to say that such training will be helpful only through agencies outside the local church. The regular benevolence and welfare work of the church can be immeasurably aided by trained workers. The pastoral function, once relegated to the pastor only, is now carried out in part by specialists in music, missions, and Christian education along with and under the pastor. A recent addition to the team is the social worker, increasingly being added to the church staff.

If the charge were made that workers trained in our courses would have to work in non-Christian settings, this writer would immediately counter with the charge that the responsibility lies with churches and other Christian bodies to organize more Christian social agencies through which help can be given to thousands upon thousands of those in need. Within the framework of such agencies, the Gospel can be given without obstruction. And if Christians meet professional social-work standards and use accepted methods in their own agencies and churches, other people will be more receptive to the spiritual help they offer.

One cannot emphasize strongly enough that the community at large needs, and sometimes desires, the spiritual emphasis evangelical social workers make. While it is true that many church workers have refused to work outside their own little circles, it is also true that others, unsung and too busy to complain about being unsung, have been “in there pitching.”

One nationally known social-work leader expressed pleasure at PCB’s new curriculum because he thinks social work could learn from the real love and involvement shown by rescue missioners (about whom he was talking at the time) in contacting and helping those in need. Granted, this cannot be worked up artificially and is possible only through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The point is, however, that some are turning, almost plaintively, to those evangelicals who are meeting social-work standards, implicitly urging them to call on any reserve of Christian power to help in the current social crises. In a revealing passage, Herbert Stroup says:

The growth of social work in the United States cannot be fully understood without constant recourse to the contributions of religious persons and organizations.… at present there is a strong inter-relationship between religion and social work.… many social workers not employed by sectarian agencies cherish religion—as does the citizen generally—and seek to interpret its significance for their lives and professional practice.… The important question for religion and social work is not the fact of their relationship, but how concretely and in what detail they can and do relate to each other. This problem is pertinent, for example, in a day when social workers are concerned with urgent recruitment programs [“The Common Predicament of Religion and Social Work,” Social Work, April, 1962, pp. 92, 93].
Article continues below

This significant statement reflects the generally favorable attitude social workers have toward “religion” today, much more favorable than at times in the past. True, “religion” is variously defined; but evangelicals should be visible enough to make their definition felt by deed as well as word. Mr. Stroup’s statement also highlights the dire need of social work manpower, and voices social workers’ willingness that religious social workers help all the people they can in order to relieve other social workers of that many problems.

Philadelphia College of Bible’s social-work courses will, it is hoped, train people to work effectively in the culture of their local communities and larger environments; to collaborate with other workers within their own groups and in the surrounding communities to meet human needs; to communicate in the best way with those who need help; and to give aid as fully as possible.

The social-work courses include sociology, social problems, and psychological counseling in the sophomore year. The junior-year course is “social welfare,” in which man’s meeting of man’s needs is studied from Moses’ day to the present. The senior-year course is “social work as a profession,” with the study of major social-work methods, fields of practice, and understanding of human development. Field work in the junior year is done in a Christian setting. In the senior year, placement is in a secular setting under professional social-work supervision. The college department chairman gives overall supervision of the students throughout the course, and stated personal interviews are a prominent feature. These interviews are directed at helping students plan careers as well as helping them understand immediate academic issues and the larger leading of the Lord in their lives.

With such a preparation, the Christian social worker goes forth to “do good unto all men” (Gal. 6:10) and to present Christ, as God leads, as the “one thing needful” (Luke 10:42) and as “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.