Historical Connections Between Christianity and Social Work

Guangzhou YMCA Sets up the First Social Work Center for Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation
Guangzhou YMCA Sets up the First Social Work Center for Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation (photo: Guangzhou YMCA)
By Grace ZhiMarch 28th, 2017

March 21, 2017 marks the 11th World Social Work Day. In commemoration to this event, an article from the Social Service Department of the China Christian Council talked about the close relationship between the three aspects of social work and modern Christian philanthropy.

In August 2008, the International Federation of Social Workers(IFSW) declared that the third Tuesday of March "The World Social Work Day."

The three basic aspects of social work are social case work, social team work, and social community work. The article discussed the origin and development of these aspects and found that they are all directly related to Christianity. The most direct connection is in the development is universal love, giving, and humanity, as advocated by Christianity.

Social case work:

In 1819, Scottish minister Thomas Chalmers divided the Glasgow parish of the Church of St John into 25 sections, each overseen by a deacon of the church. Whenever the poor came for help, the deacons would visit their homes to learn about the living environment, family condition, and more. The deacons could be called the first friendly visitors. Chalmers himself also appeared amongst the poor as a friendly visitor, so he was called the first social case worker in the history of social work.

Social team work:

In 1844, George Williams and 12 store clerks from different protestant denominations founded the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in London. Under the guidance of Robert Ross McBurney, the YMCA of Greater New York put forward the principles of "moral, intelligent, physical, and group," and formed a work pattern related to groups and teams to become the standard for team work and social work in 1866.

Social community work:

In 1875, Priest Samuel Barnett and his wife took the opportunity of visiting his Alma Mater, Oxford. In talking to students, he suggested that elite college students could live in the parish with the poor. The purpose was to improve the quality and living conditions in the slums, and it received a good response. Barnett started arranging galleries hoping to improve the quality of life in the slums. This began the Settlement Movement, which laid a solid foundation for forming the professional social community work method.

The Social Service Department was set up by the China Christian Council and the Three-self Patriotic Movement and currently, it started programs such as the Sweet Dew Project, Dentures for Rural Seniors, the Yile Elderly Assistance Project, and more.

Translated by: Grace Hubl

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