Theology a natural fit for some social workers

Jul 29, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Carol McEntyre had a “life-changing moment” during her MSW field placement at a community church in Texas.


“After being there a few months I felt like, gosh, there is nothing else I wanted to do in my life besides serve God through the church,” McEntyre said. “I really love working with a congregation and being with people with their needs.”

McEntyre is among many social workers who have complemented their social work education with degrees in theology.

Originally thinking of helping people through the nonprofit sector, McEntyre said she felt while she was a senior in college that she wanted to do more.

“The master of social work degree seemed a practical way to serve people in need, but I also wanted to have that theological underpinning,” she said.

She is a 2003 graduate of the Baylor School of Social Work and Truett Seminary with an MSW and a Master of Divinity degree.

She currently serves as pastor of First Baptist Church Columbia in Missouri.

“I am a minister first, but a minister with social work training,” she explained. “When you are working with families and others, so many issues can emerge.”

Helping members of her congregation navigate the social service system is an example of the value of her dual education.

“I have a wealth of knowledge of social services that a lot of other ministers don’t have that I can draw on,” she said. “It really does come in handy and my world view is different because I have a social work degree. I feel like I have gotten to know people in need and people in poverty on a more intimate level. I feel it’s given me a different lens to see the world.”

McEntyre said pursuing dual degrees in social work and theology is a worthy goal, but she offered a word of restraint.

“It was a heavy load to get both of these degrees done,” she said. “But I think about the breadth and depth of knowledge (I have obtained) and how it shaped me as a person. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Another Baylor School of Social Work MSW and MDiv graduate is Jason Pittman, the executive director of Touching Miami with Love, a faith-based community organization.


The bachelor of art’s graduate in psychology and sociology had experience running a residential substance-abuse treatment program for men when he decided to start seminary school.

“I enjoyed my seminary classes for several years and then Baylor started their MSW program as well as their MDiv/MSW joint degree,” he said. “Honestly, until that point, I had never really thought of social work as a profession I was interested in. However, once I looked at the degree, the courses, textbooks, etc., I knew this was the perfect education and profession for me. It felt like the missing part of my education I needed to work in the nonprofit sector.”

From the July 2014 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.