If you are considering a career in missions, you may be wondering whether or not a specific degree, such as a social work degree, could be a help in preparing you for missionary work.
Christian missions is a broad based field. In terms of preparation, much depends on where you hope to serve and the type of work you hope to do in the field. While various missionary agencies and boards have different requirements in terms of education, there are a number of general degrees which may offer you a good springboard for missions. Social work is certainly among those.
Joining Your Head and Your Heart
Christian theologian Frederick Buechner once described vocation as a kind of intersection between the world's needs and your particular joy or passion. That's a helpful thing to consider as you contemplate work as a missionary. Most missionaries would describe their decision to enter mission work in terms of a specific call. They feel compelled to help others and to share the gospel in word and deeds. How they do that, however, may depend a lot on their particular interests and talents. Missionaries serve in all kinds of capacities, including teaching, health care, pastoral care, Bible translation work and disaster relief. Preparing for work in any of these fields takes time and will likely require degrees of various types. In addition to gaining skills in a particular area, however, a missionary also needs training and experience in cross-cultural communication.
Specific Missions Training
This is why some people decide to get degrees specifically in intercultural studies or missions itself. There are certain skills that all long-term, professional missionaries can benefit from learning, regardless of whether they serve as a social worker, a doctor, or an English teacher. A double major or a major and minor combination might be one of the best kinds of preparation. Gaining a marketable skill that will enable you to offer practical help in a variety of cultural situations could be very important. Taking courses in international studies or missiology can enhance your more general degree and enable you to be effective in the field long-term. Language study is another important component of preparation.
No matter what kind of missionary work you end up doing, you know you will be working with people. A love of people if what often compels someone into mission. Degrees that help you to better understand the human person and their needs are obviously good choices. Social work, sociology, cultural anthropology, psychology, and even literature are all possible avenues. Degrees in these areas will help you to recognize different types of human need and bring skills which will help communities to think through and solve various issues.
Bear in mind that having a practical skill can help both to open doors and to enable you to serve people in need around the world. Becoming a missionary can be an exciting and adventurous task, and you will likely walk a unique road to prepare for it. Getting a social work degree is certainly one road you could choose to help you prepare for a career as a missionary.