How To Build A Good Deaf Ministry

(Send for HT02 “How To Build A Good Deaf Ministry)

I have noticed there are usually 4 types of Deaf ministries. (1) An interpreting ministry but no Sunday School class, Deaf activities, or deaf leadership. (2) A Deaf ministry led only by the hearing with no deaf involvement. (3) A Deaf ministry with deaf leadership and involvement in teaching, classes, music, visitation, activities and evangelism. (4) A Deaf church ministry with deaf leadership and hearing as voice interpreters and helpers. Your goal should be to build a good deaf ministry within the church or a good deaf church – TC.

Following are some proven methods to help build a good Deaf Ministry. All good ministries are built upon a good foundation of the Word of God and Bible principles. Without the word, there is no work. First, just knowledge of Sign Language does not build a good deaf ministry. A good ministry is built with both the “heart” and the “hands.” Remember it is a deaf ministry!

Throughout the years I have noticed that those who have been successful in Deaf ministry have some things in common. What makes the difference in your deaf ministry and other deaf ministries? The difference is you! It is not looks, ego, education, personality, or ability. Some with great abilities have poor ministries, but some with poor abilities have great ministries. What do those with good Deaf ministries have in common? You will be surprised at the absence of things you thought were most essential! God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

1. Build an Evangelistic Ministry – Signs begin with the heart, not the hands. As you go with the Gospel to the Deaf, I guarantee your signs will quickly improve. When you realize that the greatest need of the Deaf is not to hear but to be saved, you will learn how to sign. As you go with the Gospel, the Lord also promises to go with you. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matthew 28:19-20). This includes the world of the Deaf. Never lose your original compassion and burden for the Deaf! I have seen some good ministries started with only a sign book and a heart for the Deaf. Make full proof of thy ministry. Build an evangelistic ministry.

2. Teach the Deaf – The most important time is not the interpreting services, but the teaching services when you teach within their language and culture. As you teach the Deaf you will learn both more signs and more Deaf culture. You will learn together. Teaching is much easier than interpretering, as you have all week to study your lesson and signs. You are in control of the lesson and the class. When you interpret, you don’t know what is coming next. Teach systematic lessons that produce spiritual growth. Always remember that it is a deaf ministry, so the Deaf should be involved in music, praying, teaching, and activities. As the Deaf learn the Word of God, it will transform their lives to Christ. The Holy Spirit will also open your heart and their hearts. As you use your heart, He will use your hands. Remember, “No one can grow without the Word of God – No One!” Teach the Word of God!

3. Train the Deaf – Teaching is informing and training is instructing. As you train the Deaf, they will also train you. As you help them learn the Bible, they help you learn signs. You will learn more from Deaf people than any sign book. Never stop learning from the Deaf. Some Deaf say, “I understood every sign, but what did he say?” ASL is a separate language. It is not English changed into signs. As you train the Deaf, they will also train you. Together you can evangelize the Deaf in your area for Christ. Teach and train the Deaf and let them teach and train other Deaf. Let the Deaf grow and reach and teach other Deaf.

4. Love the Deaf – Learn to socialize with the Deaf at fellowships, events, parties and gatherings. At first you may feel as an outsider, but soon they will accept you. Deaf people can look at your face and know if you love them or not. Learn that God is only interested in people. Don’t love things but love people. Remember some Deaf are unable to fellowship at home, work or even church. Many parents and friends never learn Sign Language. That is why Deaf love to be with other Deaf and those who love the Deaf. Deaf people love to have special times and activities in their world. As you love the Deaf, the Deaf will love you. I often say, “Love will cover a multitude of signs.” As you enter their world, they will respect and love you more as a friend, teacher, and Deaf worker. Never lose your God-given “burden” and “love” for the Deaf. Love the Deaf, and they will love you. Build a good ministry!

5. Encourage the Deaf Spiritually – Some just minister to the social needs of the Deaf. At times some Deaf need a friend, not just an interpreter. Professional interpreters must walk away with the doctors, nurses or lawyers, but when you are in a Deaf ministry, you need to remain. You should be “there” to encourage, give hope, and pray with them. Be a friend in the time of need. I promise that Deaf people will always remember that you were “there” when they needed you. As you weep and pray with them, it will be a “special time” they will never forget. Your goal is to teach Bible principles and doctrines that change lives. The world conforms but the Word of God transforms. Encourage the Deaf, and they will encourage you.

Conclusion – As you do these five things, you will be involved in the greatest teaching class in the world. You will become part of the Deaf community and culture. Some of the most important times are outside the church activities. The Deaf will help you as you help them. The Lord will help you as you help the Deaf. The Lord and the Holy Spirit should always be involved in your ministry. Build your ministry upon the foundation of the Word of God and Bible principles. Remember, sign language is only a “tool” used to present the Word of God. You must learn their language and culture to build a good Deaf ministry. Seek to build a deaf ministry that will remain until the Lord returns. Seek to build a good deaf ministry!

If they do not understand the way your sign, then sign the way they understand.
Always remember, “It is a deaf not a hearing ministry.”
Don’t just fall in love with signs,
but fall in love with Deaf people


The Deaf Ministry Is Part of the Big Picture

Working a puzzle has become a holiday tradition at our house. Diane, my wife, and I have two different methods. First, we complete the border and group similar colors. Then, Diane tries individual pieces into every spot along the border. She sometimes looks at the picture for help. I prefer to study the picture, then choose an interesting piece and put it in the place it should be. It may not connect to another piece at the time, but I know it is in the right place because of the picture. Both of our methods require us to use the “big picture.”

Remember the Deaf – Recently a pastor who knows sign language and I sat watching two Deaf men signing fluently. He said, “Five years ago that would not have been possible.” That pastor was responsible for one of those men learning to sign well and also for his learning the Bible. I told him, Jesus said, because “ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). With a tear in his eye, he smiled. That pastor will have a great reward in Heaven.

Remember the Ministry – Sometimes the deaf ministry is called the sign language ministry. Interpreting is helpful. Preaching and teaching in sign language is needed. But remember, the deaf ministry is to people. Deaf people and their hearing family members can be reached through a good deaf ministry.

Remember the Many – Because Deaf Culture is very different from hearing cultures, Deaf people, interpreters, and others in the deaf ministry may forget that their ministry is only a part of the “big picture.” Several years ago one deaf church told a hearing visitor he would not be counted as in attendance because he was hearing. Thankfully, many deaf churches now provide interpreters for the hearing. Missionary Bob Van Sant (BIMI) started a deaf church, which later started a hearing ministry! It was interesting that the Deaf Church continued strong, even though the hearing ministry was weak at times.

Remember to Stay Connected – Deaf ministry leaders, as other ministry leaders, are responsible for keeping the pastor and/or pastoral staff informed of the progress and needs of the deaf ministry. One ministry should not become a “church within a church.” If everyone were in the deaf ministry, what would happen to the hearing? If no one knew sign language, who would interpret for the Deaf? If everyone were in the choir, to whom would they sing? “But now are they many members, yet but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:19). Everyone is important. All have a place.

Remember One Leader – The typical NFL (football) team has 15 assistant coaches, but there is one head coach ( The board of directors of a corporation must agree on the direction, or there will be confusion. There must be one leader or leadership direction. The pastor must consider the needs of the whole ministry. Some decisions may not favor your individual ministry, but will help the overall ministry. Many times I have tried to force my puzzle piece into the wrong place, but I finally had to yield to the big picture. The deaf ministry, as every other ministry, must be willing to yield to the needs of the whole.

Remember the Individual – Recently, at the 2017 Silent Word Missions Retreat, SWM Director, Ted Camp, put a partially-worked puzzle in the center of the room. Each of the 27 SWM missions team members wrote his name on the back of one piece of the remaining puzzle pieces, and then placed his piece into the puzzle. Because each could see the “big picture,” it was easy to see where his piece fit. The puzzle was quickly worked and looked great! When done, I noticed that none of the names were visible, but were under the puzzle. The big picture was more important than any individual, but every individual was important!

Remember the Team – Diane and I have learned several lessons from working puzzles. We may work the puzzle differently, but we are on the same team. The “big picture” of the puzzle brings us to the same place. The puzzle does not move. Sometimes we even work together separately – she will work on the puzzle late at night and I will work on it in the morning. We inform each other of our plans so we do not conflict. If we find we are working on the same part of the puzzle, one of us will yield to the other. We are in unity with one goal. Together we become successful.

Are you puzzled about the deaf ministry? Learn these lessons from a puzzle! SWM can help you with your deaf ministry. Pastors or deaf ministry leaders, contact me for more information. To contact Jon click here.

What’s Up

What’s Up? Sword Deaf Baptist College, Clinton, TN, recently had a grand opening and ribbon cutting for their new dorm. Dr. Fred Adams, president, and others celebrate this answer to prayer.

What’s Up? Congrats to Jan and Dr. Bo (Byun) Struhar (both deaf), Marriottsville, MD, on their recent marriage, July 29, 2017. They enjoyed an overseas honeymoon which included Switzerland, Paris, and Germany. (Bo is an example of “The Deaf Can” as she is a successful dentist.) They both are Christians and faithfully serve the Lord.

What’s Up? Sympathy to family of James Gaffney (deaf), Syracuse, NY, who passed away recently from stomach cancer. Interpreter, Nancy Smith, wrote, “We brought James to the ASLI in PA, a few years ago. Allen Snare led him to the Lord. He is now in Heaven. I am thankful for Allen and SWM.”

What’s Up? Deaf people in India are making a difference. One Deaf man was honored for his success as a franchise owner of KFC, and Deaf young people were a part of the 7th Deaf operated KFC outlet. Deaf people are making a difference in the business world as well as the Christian world – IPM.

.What’s Up? Did you know that SWM’s Jim Bracelin often preaches in prisons? Recently he preached in a Pennsylvania prison. Over 400 inmates, including two deaf, attended his service and 20 accepted Christ. Jim is scheduled for two other prisons this fall. Often in these prisons he meets deaf people and is able to share, in their language, the Gospel of Christ. FYI: Many deaf prisoners from all across the USA, are enrolled in SWM’s free Deaf Bible Correspondence Institute. Through the courses, several have made salvation professions and others write that they are learning more about the Bible. Several prison chaplains have requested copies of the Silent Word newspaper to give to the deaf inmates. (We are thankful for this outreach.)

What’s Up? Pastor Russell & Cassandra VanDonkelaar, and members and friends of Palmetto Baptist Deaf Church, Easley, SC, celebrated the church’s 2nd year anniversary on Sunday, September 17. The VanDonkelaars, both deaf, are graduates of Harvest Deaf Bible College in Ringgold, Georgia.

What’s Up? (Report) International Partnership Ministries IPM, Hanover, PA, are thrilled with Deaf team members, James and Joy Campbell, Windsor Mill, Maryland. IPM writes, James Campbell is a skilled Bible teacher and evangelist. As a member of the Deaf community himself, he is in a special position to work with IPM’s Deaf Department. He partners with international churches and churches in the USA to form and strengthen deaf ministries, with a special focus on assisting IPM’s national missionaries. Pray for the Campbells as the Lord opens doors of opportunity for their ministry.

What’s Up? Happy birthday to Missionary to the Deaf, Betty (Rice) Cabbage, Deaf Mission Society, El Paso, TX. She celebrated her 80th birthday July 11, 2017. Thank you Don and Betty for your continued faithfulness.

What’s Up? Recently SWM’s Home Office Missionary, Tabitha Beam served in a missions conference at Ephraim Baptist Deaf Church, Florissant, MO, Pastor Paul Strosnider. She helped in special music and the children’s ministry. Following the conference she attended a Single Ladies Retreat in Colorado. Tabitha joyfully serves the Lord by serving others.

What’s Up? SWM local volunteer, Belinda Pierce, is a great asset to SWM. She assists Tabitha Beam with different jobs related to mailings and office duties. Recently, she accepted the duties of SWM Deaf Bible Institute. Belinda oversees enrollment, grades, sending of lessons, certificates, and correspondence. Although Belinda only knows a few signs, the deaf enjoy trying to communicate with her. She has a servant’s heart and a friendly spirit. Thank you, Belinda, for your willingness to serve at SWM.

What’s Up? (Report) Dr. Curtis Young, IPM, beginning January, 2018, will focus full-time on writing curriculum for their international Deaf Bible Institute. He has already completed the study of Genesis and will begin work on Bibliology, and Ephesians. He will also continue to help find more teachers for the materials that national missionaries need. Although he is experiencing physical challenges, he and his wife, Lori, continue to press toward the goal and run the race the Lord has set before them.

Dat’s What’s Up – Y’All

Choosing the Blessed Way

Young people usually accept their parents’ way of life as “normal.” Boys in our neighborhood copied their fathers when bragging about “best” cars. Dave liked Pontiacs. Kenneth and Alan talked about Oldsmobiles. My brother and I liked Plymouths. That was because our fathers owned those type cars. Later, in high school, we did buy cars similar to our fathers’ (and then most of us changed to buying ’55, ’56, and ’57 Chevrolets). It is easy to “default to” or “choose-first” one certain car. Young people often “default” to the foods or eating habits of their parents. Most of us love the way our mothers cooked (healthy or not). We may say, “Well, I remember we always… (cooked this) (ate that) (liked this) (hated that) (froze this) (kept that)!” If your family ate healthy food, worked hard, exercised, rested, worshiped, loved, communicated, cared, gave, served, honored, helped, forgave, and avoided strife, then you probably find it easy to “default” into living well in your own life and marriage. If, however, your family ate old, artificial, colored, preserved and sweetened “foods,” you will probably eat those things yourself. Some people also “default” to arguing, yelling, holding grudges, keeping hurt feelings, and having to “win” arguments if that was “normal” when they grew up. You cannot change your past, but you can change your “defaults” (first-choices) to a new way of living. It is not as important for a husband to “win his way” or a wife to “win her way” as it is to have “their” ways become “the right way.” God can change your mate’s “way” and your “way” to be like “His Blessed Way” in life and marriage. His way is good… very good!

Application: God’s Blessed Way is a “choice” for all to decide to follow. Decide now to follow God’s Way!

Where It All Began

As I began writing this article today, I was thinking about where it all began. I was a pastor in a local church that had just hosted a Fantastic Saturday meeting. The theme for that meeting was “Come Help Us!” It was taken from the book of Acts where the “Man of Macedonia” was inviting Paul to come over to help them. Ted Camp had shared lessons all day about the need for workers with the Deaf. I was pretty comfortable and not feeling a great deal of conviction, because I was the pastor of the church. Surely God would call someone else to go to help the Deaf … I was already too busy! On Sunday afternoon, Ted and Carlene left our home to head back down south again. When we went into the room they had been staying in that weekend, I saw a hand-written note from Miss Carlene that simply said, “Come, Help Us!” I remember standing there in that place, with that note in my hand, thinking … “God, do you want me to go with Silent Word Ministries to work with the Deaf?” As I look back over the years, I realized that it was that simple note on the floor of our room that started me thinking about fully surrendering my heart, hands and head to work with the Deaf. In all these years, I have not felt qualified very often. I have not felt able very often. I have not felt worthy very often. But, in all these years, I have not regretted coming with SWM to help the Deaf “see” the Word of God using my hands. I have rejoiced in seeing many Deaf come to know Jesus’ saving power. What a joy it has been to explain the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to Deaf people all around the world! There is nothing better! Perhaps today you would consider a simple question. Does God want you to “Come Help Us?” I believe someone reading this article today will feel the tug of God on their heart to surrender to help us in the work of reaching the Deaf for Christ all around the world. Come, Help Us!

Learn to Sign From Deaf People

Have you ever wondered how Deaf people learn sign language? Hearing people must take English classes through all of their schooling, but most Deaf people may never have taken a class in ASL. Historically, in residential schools for the Deaf, it has been said that students taught students to sign. Some deaf students in oralist schools learned sign language in secret, as it was forbidden. They probably did not sit in a class as hearing ASL students do today. Nor would they have said, “This is hard.” They simply imitated the language they saw, much as a person moving to a foreign country would do. Most ASL Interpreter Training Programs (ITPs) require a certain number of hours of interaction with Deaf people. The reason is clear – it is best to learn ASL from a person who uses it well.

Note: Not all Deaf people use ASL. Beware of “code switching,” a cultural adaptation in which Deaf people use more English when communicating with a non-ASL user.

One helpful rule which I have used successfully is the 3-person & 3-location rule. When I see a new sign or grammar structure, I try not to use it until having seen it in 3 different situations, preferably by 3 different signers.

Become a language detective. Use your ASL with an ASL-using Deaf person. Be willing to learn from your mistakes. Accept constructive criticism, especially when learning new signs. Ask questions. Be willing to accept regional sign variations. For example, a sign that is appropriate in Georgia may be offensive in Arizona (which actually happened to me). Finally, show interest in Deaf people, not just their language.

ASL cannot be learned fully from a book or video. Personal communication is required. Use the signs and language you learn. You will learn faster and better.

“The Amazing Eclipse”

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America was treated to an amazing event, the eclipse of the sun. Many in specific areas were able to see the total eclipse. Naturally, it was the hot topic throughout all the news media. The last time the U. S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979. A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun. It was interesting to read that students at the Oregon School for the Deaf gathered on the football field to view a total eclipse. The SWM Missions team was in Newport, Tennessee, for our annual working retreat on August 21. We always have a full meeting schedule, but Jon Barr, mission director, learned the exact time the eclipse would happen. It was on the schedule. At 2:35 we went outdoors with our eclipse glasses and viewed with awe a partial eclipse. As the moon partially blocked  the sun, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees, a light wind arose, and a slight darkening was felt. It was an amazing experience. As the event passed, and the warmth of the sun was felt again, and the brightness of the sun reappeared, I was reminded of the awesomeness of our Creator God. “For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in the earth… all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:17). God made everything just right and it was very good. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). He is the ruler of the universe. The solar eclipse is His doing and His responsibility. What a mighty God we serve! “They were all amazed at the mighty power of God” (Luke 9:43). “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (I Timothy 1:17).

Good Health Eclipse

Later in the week, I had a doctor’s (Dr. Chad McDill) appointment. In his office he had a chart playing off the eclipse event. It read, “What is eclipsing (blocking) your good health?” That gave me the idea for this article. Just as the universe is a gift from God and is His responsibility, our physical life is an amazing gift, and its good health is our responsibility. (I am fully aware that some things about our health are completely out of our control. I am talking about the things we can control.) Our lives are valuable. We should look after our body and mind so that we can live life to the fullest. It is our choice. What is eclipsing (blocking) your good health?  Begin today to make some changes.  It is your choice. It is your responsibility.

Spiritual Health Eclipse

This thought process led me to spiritual health. What is eclipsing (blocking) your spiritual health? Probably the path to lasting satisfaction and contentment is centered around our spiritual health, which is a devoted relationship with our Heavenly Father, the Creator God. Just as our physical health is our responsibility, so is our spiritual health. If we neglect our physical health, our body and mind will become weak, and we will be hindered in our daily living. If we neglect our spiritual health, our soul will become weak. We will lose joy, hope, peace, and influence. Our sins and neglect will cause our Heavenly Father to hide His face from us, thus causing a spiritual eclipse. “But your iniquities (sins) have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). What is eclipsing (blocking) your spiritual health? Do you have a devoted relationship with your Heavenly Father? Recognize your need today and begin to make some changes. You will be glad you did. It is your choice. It is your responsibility. This is written because I care… Carlene


Why?… Maybe Because…

In 2016, Jon and I went to Israel. What a blessing it was to walk where Jesus walked, see the places where He taught, view where different Bible events occurred, take a boat trip across the Sea of Galilee, see the empty tomb, and so much more! However, our trip home brought a different kind of “blessing” as weather caused delays, and we missed our connecting flight in Istanbul, Turkey. The “Why?” question was heard many times as we stood about 12 hours in lines for new tickets, visas, passport check, and the shuttle to the hotel. It was in the second shuttle that we discovered the possible reason for all these delays. There was a Deaf man… from Bahrain (an Arabic country). Time was very limited, but Jon was able to give him a card for the “” website. Maybe all the waiting in lines was so that Deaf man could go to a website where he could see the Gospel presented in both gestures and sign language!

Scripture gives us many examples of things that happened and people could say “Why?” Sometimes the answers are given, and sometimes they are not. Why would Jesus go through Samaria to Galilee (John 4)? Of course, He knew the Samaritan woman would come there to the well, and she would be saved when He explained to her the “true gift of God… living water (everlasting life).” But maybe the reason also was because a testimony from her was the only one that would draw men of the city to Christ. Why did Philip leave a major preaching meeting where men and women were being saved and baptized, to go into the desert to explain salvation to one Ethiopian man (Acts 8)? Obviously, that one man needed to be saved. But maybe the reason was also because many in Ethiopia would become Christians through that one man’s testimony. Why did Jesus linger when He heard the news that His friend Lazarus was sick (John 11)? Jesus knew that Lazarus would die and Jesus would raise him from the dead, but that was not the only purpose. The purpose was for the glory of God and that His disciples might believe.

When we see hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, wars, bomb testing, car accidents, sickness, death and suffering, our natural tendency is to question, “Why?” God knows the reasons. Whether we understand or not, our spiritual response must be faith. Trust the One who knows the “because.”


From My Home to Your Home

One of the greatest blessings of being a mother/ grandmother is having your children/grandchildren ask you questions, want your opinions or seek your advice. When they are teenagers, they normally do not want your opinions. Then when they become adults they understand that Mom and Dad are not that bad! There was a reason for the rules at home. Recently, two of our daughters called and both asked for advice. Sometimes we don’t have the answers, but it is amazing how God’s Word does! During my quiet time, God spoke to my heart. I was able to share with them what God had shared with me. It is so important for me to read my Bible daily. This is what God shared with me: “Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers” (II Chron. 13:18). Rely means to lean on, trust, rest upon, stay. There is much to learn from this 4-letter word! RELY:

R = Rest. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psa. 37:7). Don’t rush – rest – rely!

E = Eternal/ Everything/ Everywhere. God Is eternal. He knows everything. He is everywhere! “Ah, Lord God! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17).

L = Let it go and Let God! As mothers, we want to fix everything, but we can’t. We must let it go—stop trying to help, and rest in our eternal God to do the work. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6)!

Y = Yield. “Yield yourselves unto God” (Rom. 6:13). Let Him do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20). Let Go – Let God!

My motherly/grandmotherly duty is to “Rely on the Lord.”

Empty The Trash Can

I love my new office. When I sit down to study, I always write many notes. When I am finished, I empty the trash can. Then I look around the office and see things that need to also be thrown away. So, I recently decided to have a special clean-up day. I worked hard and long. There were lots of things that I needed to throw away. Why? I needed more space in my office for my new books and materials. After I was finished cleaning my office, I thought, “Christians also need a special clean-up day to get rid of all the things of trash in their lives. They should clean up their lives, put all the trash into a can, and then empty the trash can.

We need a special cleaning day to throw away sin, pride, greed, moods, and bitterness. We need to throw them away to make room in our minds for good and better things. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report…think on these things.  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

There are times that you need a clean-up day in your spiritual lives. Get rid of sin and trash that controls your life. Stop sin! Break bad habits! As trucks come by and pick up the trash at your home, the Lord will take away and remove the trash of sin in your life (I John 1:9). Do you need a clean-up in your life? Maybe you need to empty your trash can. Have a special clean-up day. Then the Scriptures promise that the God of peace shall be with you.


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