Every once and a while, the question arises about what someone with this dual degree will do. Let’s say it becomes even more common when around curious parents and relatives during the holidays. And the answer I usually give is a tenuous reply: “That’s a good question.”
I know a lot of my colleagues are more certain about their career or vocation. Most will become ordained within their traditions to serve as pastors or reverends able to perform many of the essential activities of their denomination (e.g., preaching and sacraments). But many see the need to augment their role of pastoral care with evidence-based and/or clinical practices of social work. (I can’t overstate how important this competency is for those in ordained positions.) Others will often become chaplains within their traditions to serve in such institutions as hospitals, prisons or military bases. Still others will be laypeople (non-ordained) who exhort their faith communities to “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” as faithful people in their communities. Usually, these people work in non-profits–sometimes faith-based, other times not–surrounding a certain issue or population. Still, a few others may decide to go on to doctoral work within either discipline.
As a seminary student, you will acquire the theological language to be able to speak with communities of faith about pervasive social problems. As a social work student, you will acquire the practical and theoretical skills to be able to work with various populations. With both degrees, you may be able to urge congregations to take faithful action to alleviate the symptoms or remedy the causes of such social problems. Right now—as I tend to see it—in the midst of a failing global economy and mounting ecological crises, you will be poised to help communities navigate troubling times which are truly theological and social crises.
The church needs you and the social work profession needs more advocates.