Of course, I want to encourage you to consider the profession of social work, but I also want to join you in the conversation about the broader social work of our faith. What are some ways we are talking about social work in our churches and in our profession? Let's consider a few models:
Social impact is a model that asks us to consider the value of our ministries. In When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett made clear that too often our mission work is more harmful than we realize. In order to understand if our doing good is doing any good, we have to understand social impact. More and more people are talking about evidence-based interventions, and while the idea that we only engage in ministries that are proven to be effective is fraught with complications, there is value in people of faith considering how our approach to serving others can have the impact we hope to have.
Social innovation is another model for us to consider. Social work has long supported social innovation, but has only recently engaged this new way of thinking about social change; likewise the church is beginning to think about faith-animated approaches to addressing wicked social problems. We realize, in the church and profession, that today's social challenges require creative ways of thinking and that no single profession, discipline, organization, or entity can make the required difference in the lives of people affected by global poverty and disease, exploitation and violence. How do we engage others across the disciplines in creative conversations as we seek to be faithful on mission with God? This is a question that opens the way for social innovation.
There is so much more to the role of faith in society than we have ever imagined. God's vision for justice remains vast and unrealized. Kingdom work assumes it will never be fully realized here and now, but it also assumes that we are faithfully seeking to be and to do more as part of our vocation. Following Christ demands our all. Our faith demands an inner journey lived in personal relationship with Christ, a journey of individual faithful living with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and an outer journey in response to the world around us. This social work of our faith is an unending quest full of opportunity. Our hope in the Garland School is to educate students to be faithful in a variety of ways given the diverse expressions of God's call. What is your vision for the social work of your faith?