(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