The Christian Social Work Model

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1 The Christian Social Work Model

2 Christian Social Work Model l Jesus is Lord The Christian social work model is based on an acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord of our lives and of our work. The social worker then will have a living relationship with Jesus, and will consciously seek to bring the love of Jesus to every person and into every situation they are involved in. It is not possible to engage in this work without being a person of prayer. The social worker must be aware of their oneness with Jesus. Their activity is truly Christian only in so far as they permit Jesus to work in and through them with His power, His love, His hope. 2 Nature of social work The social worker needs to have a deep understanding of the essential nature of social work. Social work is about empowering clients to make positive choices to achieve attainable goals which will enhance their well being, while ensuring that during the outworking of this process all involved are protected from harm. 3 Professional Practice The social worker should be a person who has a professional approach to their work with clients, which comes from having obtained appropriate qualifications, experience or training to enable them to give their best possible assistance to their clients. 4 Self Understanding The social worker should have an understanding of who they are, where they have come from, and where they are going with their lives. They should take strength, and energy from their Christian, cultural and family heritage. 5 Understanding of World View The social worker should have an understanding of their Christian world view, and be comfortable within it. They should be able to relate their world view to the world view of others. 6 Image of God The Christian world view understands man to be made in the image of God, a God who loves them dearly, and calls them to eternal life through accepting the redeeming love of Jesus. This world view sees humankind with spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual characteristics for whom wholeness comes when they are walking with God. God gives meaning and purpose to their existence.

3 7 Value System The Social worker's value system should be based on scripture, which they should use where appropriate as a guideline when counselling others. The social worker believes that God s truth is revealed through scripture, and that his Word is a basic tool to be used in working with others. 8 Sanctity of Life Human life flows from the divine life of God and is made in His image. This divine life, which is above every other life, gives and preserves life. It is life which overflows with life. God therefore is the Lord of all life; man cannot do with it as He wills. Human life and death are therefore in the Hands of God only. "In His Hands is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." Job l2:10. Every human life from the moment of conception until death is sacred because the human person has been created in the image and likeness of the living and holy God. Because human life is sacred, the Christian social worker must have an absolute and profound respect for life from conception until death. In this regard, the social worker must not be party to decisions which involve abortion or euthanasia, but rather acts decisively to support and enhance all human life in its various ages and stages and circumstances. The Psalmist says, "For you have formed my inward parts. You have covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvellous are your works and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed." Psalm l39: l Relationships The social worker understands that human basic needs - spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual and social are met in relationships; that quality relationships are the staff of life. When a person, through relationships with God, with his/her family, with others, experiences being loved for who they are as a special person, their potential will flower. Without such relationships their potential withers and they become but a shadow of the person they were created to be. The social worker then must seek to help their clients build fulfilling relationships with God, with family, with others in the community. To see a client outside of relationships is to see but part of them. 10 Cultural Inheritance The social worker's interaction with a client must take into account the preciousness of the client's cultural inheritance. Cultural inheritance is a gift of God and is an

4 important determinant in understanding client circumstances. The Christian social worker must display sensitivity and humility when interacting with clients from cultures other than his/her own. In these circumstances it is usually advisable for the social worker to be guided by a person familiar with the culture concerned. To see a client devoid of their culture is to see but part of them. 11 Unconditional Love The social worker s interaction with a client should establish a relationship of trust, of respect, of understanding. To establish a sense of belongingness, that for now the social worker and their client belong to each other, and that this belongingness is based on unconditional love. The client should experience that they and the social worker, along with God in their midst, are in this together, and together they will journey through to something better. 12 Quality Assessments An important role of the social worker is to make assessments. It is necessary, though, that before the social worker begins to form opinions, they have prayed for discernment and they have spent time gathering quality information. This information has to be gathered from a wide perspective, taking into account all that influences a client and their family. The social worker will need to know not only the personal details of the client, but will need to be familiar with the make up of, and relationships within, the nuclear and extended family, the culture and world view of the client, as well as the client's involvement with other groups within the community such as school, friends, work, clubs, Police, Government Departments and the like. To take short cuts in gathering this information is to do our client a disservice. The more the social worker knows of their client and their situation the better will be the quality of planning that will help the client. The social worker is much less likely to make a wrong assessment, to go in the wrong direction, if they take time to gather their information in a thorough way. 13 Quality Planning The purpose of this information gathering is to ask "Where are you?" The social worker must avoid the tendency to say "there you are" before they know what the real problem is. The best way to avoid such mistakes is in effect, to ask, "Where are you? What is causing your stress? I want to understand what your problem really is." Having got an answer to this question, "Where are you?" the social worker then needs to know "Where would like to be?" and "How will you get there?" These questions are fundamental to the quality planning that should underlie intervention with a client. The goals should be clearly established, along with the tasks necessary to achieve these goals. It is crucial that the goals and the tasks set, are realistic and are achievable. To set up a plan for failure is to add to the chaos which exists already. This whole process should be based on prayer with the expectation that not only will the Lord provide discernment and wisdom, and compassion, but that He will

5 undertake to bring into reality, the vision of the plan for the future. It is a basic premise of the Christian social work model that, once the issues are understood, through our prayer, and the prayers of others, the Lord, through His power and love, will be asked to resolve these issues. Identify the issues and pray - identify the issues and pray. This is the technique which makes the Christian social work model so effective and powerful. l4 Client Responsibility In the interaction between the social worker and the client, it is important that the client take responsibility for the goals set, and the means of achieving these. The client must own the decisions made; they must be their decisions which they are committed to following through. Without this sense of responsibility there will be no growth on the part of the client. In the ultimate sense it is their life and before God they are responsible for it. 15 Quality Listening The social worker's role of gathering quality information, and of assisting their client to make realistic and helpful plans for the future, will only happen if they have developed the art, the skill, of being a good listener. Being a good listener is the most effective tool, outside of prayer, that the social worker has in helping other. The social worker should have the ability to listen so that they can reflect back to their client not only the meaning of their words and the way they are presenting themselves, but also how they are feeling. The ability to listen is fundamental to the Christian social work model. Through listening, the social worker gives the message "you are so important that I really want to understand what is going on for you. I want to know where you are." "If you listen to me, I feel valued, you give me your time, acceptance - something I may never have had - and a relationship with any other human being - something I may have problems with. You share the burden of my grief, my loneliness, my frustration, my indecision, my guilt, I've been alone with it so far. You let me think my thoughts aloud sometimes, that way, I find answers, or discover where to look for them." Joyce Huggett. The social worker needs to pray for a heart that listens. 16 Empathy

6 Arising out of good listening skills is another essential ingredient of the Christian social work model which is empathy. Empathy is the ability of the social worker to suspend their frame of reference and enter into the world of the client so that they are with them, can experience what they are thinking and feeling. Empathy means understanding from the client's internal frame of reference, rather than from the social worker's own, although the social worker always needs to retain their world view as their own point of reference. To experience the identical emotion felt by the client is of course impossible, but the social worker can experience something of what is going on for the client. The two walk arm in arm as it were, with the social worker imparting care, understanding, and support of the other's emotional experience. l7 Transparency In this process the social worker must be transparently open, honest, and caring in all that he/she says and does. This attitude, associated with an unconditional acceptance of the client, conveys the message that they are made of God in His image, and are thereby precious in His sight. "We love because He first loved us" - so too we must love others, so that they can love in their turn. All are made in the image of God All are victims of the fall We are in this together - we belong to one another We must not abandon anyone on our journey. l8 Client Empowerment As the social worker listens, empathises, plans with the client, they will look for ways to build up the client, to help their self image to develop, to encourage, to empower, to equip them so that they can grow in their confidence to handle themselves and the relationships they are involved in. It is a process of self acceptance, knowing and experiencing that they are wonderfully made in the image of God, and that in this they are lovable and a special person for whose life in God there is point and purpose. 19 Client Safety A prime responsibility of the social worker is to ensure the safety and well being of the people with whom he/she is involved, and especially this is so of children and young people. While the focus of social work is about building empowering relationships with clients, there are times when the social worker has to act decisively to ensure the safety of children, young people or adults from self harm or harm imposed by others. This issue of client safety has always to be a priority with the social worker over other considerations. In these matters of serious concern, consultation with a supervisor and prayer must be essential features of the social worker's performance.

7 20 Networks of Love The social worker needs to remember always that their client's needs (spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual) will be met in relationships, so they will continue to look for ways that community networks can be used to assist their client progress on. Although it is crucial that the social worker build a trusting relationship of acceptance, of belonging with their client, this is not to be a dependant relationship. Eventually the client, with community network support, should be able to stand tall, strong, confident, thus allowing the social worker to withdraw. The social worker is a facilitator assisting his/ her client to build upon the resources they and their network contain. 21 Preciousness of Families God places His children in families. It is a God given right of every child to belong to a family where they are safe and loved and can receive a good education and health care. The Christian social worker must always work to ensure children experience the blessing of belonging to a family where they are loved unconditionally and are kept safe and well. It is within a committed, caring family environment that the physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social needs of children are best met. 22 The Cross at the Centre The Christian social work model has the cross at its centre. A client will only find true wholeness when they are able to kneel before the cross and accept and express forgiveness for all the wrongs in their life. It may take months and years of patient loving for this to happen. 23 Challenging the Client In the journey to the cross it may be necessary for the social worker to challenge her client. There will be times when a client has to realise that the chaos in their life is due to their living outside of God's standards. Needless to say, if this challenge is to have validity, the social worker's life style must reflect the same standards. There can be other challenges made by the social worker other than moral ones. The social worker can confront her client's strengths, weaknesses, challenge discrepancies between their view of themselves and their behaviour, challenge their choices, or challenge them to action. If these challenges are done within the context of a trusting, accepting relationship, they are a valid way of working.

8 24 Grief and Loss Some clients will bring to the relationship with the social worker, deep hurts and loss. Often these will go back to the tender years of childhood. In these cases it may be appropriate for the social worker with the client to go back in time to these moments of trauma and to bring the healing love of Jesus into them. At times clients can only be set free from these hurts when they experience the love of Jesus covering them with His love. 25 Desired Outcome The desired outcome of the Christian social work model is to see the client strong enough, confident enough to move beyond a pre-occupation with their own needs to that of others. In this the social worker should stress activities which require cooperation with others, for a positive self image and secure identity ultimately comes about through relationships. Ultimately social workers need to lead their clients to understand that deep, fulfilling love only comes as a by product of a life which is centred on God and others. "If, however, a person seeks not to receive love, but rather to give it, they will become lovable and, they will most certainly be loved in the end. This is the immutable law under which we live: concern for oneself and convergence upon self can only isolate self and induce an even deeper and more tortuous loneliness. It is a vicious and terrifying cycle that closes in on us when loneliness, seeking to be relieved through the love of others, only increases... But how can we love if we have never been loved? All of us have some capacity to love, some ability to move the focus of our minds out from ourselves to the needs, happiness and fulfilment of others. To the extent that we do this, to the extent that we actualise this potential that is latent within us we will be loved." John Powell 26 Christ Centred Model The Christian social work model is, above all else, a Christ centred model. Unless everything we do is done with deliberate intent of allowing Jesus to work through us, and in the process to give Him the glory, then the model becomes a sham and the word Christian should be dropped. The Christian social work model is an integrated model. It endeavours to put together the truths of psychology and of the Scriptures in a harmonious way. Psychological understanding, and biblical truths can, and do, go together. This model is only effective though, and will only continue to be effective and relevant if we recognise we have no answers in ourselves, and are dependent upon God for all we need to do the task; that we are committed to prayer, to a growing knowledge of the Word of God, to a growing knowledge of human behaviour and a willingness to learn from our mistakes.

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