Question: What are the best methods to use in Deaf Ministry?
Answer: As a missionary at the Bill Rice Ranch, I visited state Deaf schools to invite young people for a “free” week at a summer camp. While at the schools, I visited classes and talked to the teachers and principals about what was most effective in teaching the deaf. I learned what to do, and also what not to do. I noticed that each state had different philosophies, ideas, methods, and teaching. There was no one universal method used in all the schools. One year I visited 15 schools for the Deaf. Following are the best lessons I learned and still use until this day.
- Repetition is good. I still use much repetition. I learned that it works with the hearing as well as the Deaf. Repeat, and then repeat!
- Visual aids and illustrations are very helpful. I had the privilege every Sunday for years to teach about 200 young people at a school for the Deaf. One Sunday I used only signs. Another Sunday I used signs and visual aids. I tested them. Preaching with signs and visuals always excelled.
- Teach until one main point or subject is understood and known. When I taught several things, it was too much for them to remember and retain. Remember, they listen with their eyes. If they are not looking, they are not listening. Keep them focused on the message or lesson. “If they don’t understand the way you teach, teach the way they understand.”
- Do not ask simple “yes” or “no” questions. Example: “Are you saved?” Typical answer, “Yes.” Now ask, “Why?” You will now know what they know. Some answer, “church.” Learn what they trust. No one is saved without the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). No one can spiritually grow without the Word (2 Pet. 2:2). The world conforms, but the Word transforms (Rom. 12:1-2). The Word of God produces the work of God. Use it!
- Deaf people usually write as they sign, but read as taught in school. So as I write, I replace difficult words with words I can sign. Abomination (Hate). My goal is not to be unique but be understood. “If they don’t understand the way you write, write the way they understand.”
- I noticed they signed one way with other deaf, but then signed another way with hearing teachers. They endured one but enjoyed the other. They know both worlds and simply enjoy their deaf world best. “If they don’t understand the way you sign, sign the way they understand.”
- So, what are the best methods to use in Deaf Ministry? My answer was given to me by the principal at the MSD (Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint, Michigan). He taught me that “all deaf” are not all the same, but deaf people are individuals. Never state, “All deaf love broccoli.” Why? Because some hate broccoli. Realize each deaf person is an individual with a different background, education level, personality, and language skills. So you must know the level of the person or people before you. Then, adapt and adjust to their level. If they do not understand the way you sign, sign the way they understand. They must know to grow. It is a great compliment when a deaf person says, “Now I understand.” Just knowing Sign Language does not qualify you for a deaf ministry, just as knowing Portuguese does not qualify you to serve in a ministry in Brazil. Your goal is that they know what you know so
they can spiritually grow (2 Pet. 3:18).
Now you know what I know!