Social Work professor examines faith’s role in the field

Dr. Lisa L. Hosack, associate professor of Social Work at Grove City College, wrote the book on integrating faith into the social work curriculum—literally.

This summer Hosack published “Development on Purpose: Faith and Human Behavior in the Social Environment,” a textbook that provides a coherent framework for considering issues in the field from a Christian perspective. It is an extension of her successful efforts to build a faith-based social work program at Grove City College.

The book addresses important questions about the nature of people and society that are raised in courses in human behavior and the social environment at both undergraduate and graduate levels. It posits that the Christian faith offers compelling answers and provides a defining purpose for human development. The first half of the book outlines a purpose for human development, examining biological, psychological, and social theories through the lens of faith. The second half uses detailed case examples to illuminate the way that faith can relate to work with people in all stages of life.

“I wrote this book around the thesis that has inspired my work as a social work practitioner and now educator—that our flourishing as persons results from right relationships with God, one another, and the world around us,” Hosack said. “Any attempts to practice social work should be situated around these goals. This is what I try to communicate to students because in a line of work that regularly exposes you to some of life’s darkest realities, restoration, even in its most incremental forms, is what sustains and motivates you.”

Peer reviews are effusive:

  • “The author’s purpose is not to replace one focus of practice (social work theories and skills) with theology. Rather, she is encouraging all Christians in the social work profession not to neglect the theological context of how we are made, in God’s image, when we address various behaviors across the life course. This book will serve as wonderful addition to the preparation of social work professionals. This work truly celebrates the link of social work with our Christian faith tradition,” said Baylor University Professor of Social Work, Gaynor Yancey.
  • “ ‘Development on Purpose: Faith and Human Behavior in the Social Environment’ is a long overdue faith-based perspective on critical social work theories on human development and the environment, highlighting the significance of spirituality in human flourishing,” according to Dr. Marleen Milner, professor of Social Work at Southeastern University.
  • Hosack’s book “provides a comprehensive understanding of the role of faith in human development and social work practice. The book allows students to fully investigate the interplay of faith and spirituality with biological, social and psychological functioning. It also provides students with tools to critically evaluate social work and related theories and practices using a lens of Christian faith,” Dr. Kristen Alford, associate professor of Social Work at Calvin University, wrote.

Hosack began developing the college’s program which integrates faith into social work – what has been considered a secular and “progressive” discipline to improve the lives of people through service – in 2013. By 2015, Grove City College was recognized as one of the top Christian colleges to study social work, and by 2017 the program was elevated to major status. After a years-long process, the program is set to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education in 2020. 

“We are excited to transition from solely developing the program to spreading the word about our product. It is a great encouragement to see students join us in this journey. I am confident that God will use their competence and compassion to bless others whether they advocate for just policy, lead non-profit organizations, or work directly with individuals and families in need,” Hosack said.

Students in Grove City College’s social work program acquire an extensive background in micro and macro-level practice through courses in areas such as human development, child welfare, research methods and social welfare policy analysis. The program also includes classes that are not common to other bachelor’s programs such as International Social Development, where problems such as human trafficking, public health, and government corruption are explored, and in Administration in Social Work where students develop a social service program and write a grant proposal for its funding.

Social work majors also complete a 400-hour internship in their senior year with human service agencies that address domestic violence, children’s welfare, health services and other needs. Locally, the agencies include: AWARE, Bethany Christian Services, Children Youth and Family, Children’s Aid Society, Pregnancy Resource Center, Haven Professional Counseling, George Junior Republic, and others.

“Development On Purpose: Faith and Human Behavior in the Social Environment” (ISBN 978-0-9897581-5-4) is available online here.  

For more about the Social Work program at Grove City College, visit

Social Work professor examines faith’s role in the field

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