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Sometimes pastors feel awkward around the deaf ministry. Questions arise like: What are the Deaf people saying? What is the interpreter saying? Is the sermon being interpreted accurately? Are the workers teaching the Deaf people correctly? The goal should be to have an effective deaf ministry reaching all Deaf.

Learn A Few Signs – The pastor may not know sign language, but by learning a few signs, he can greet and welcome Deaf people. Start by learning “Good morning,” “Happy to see you,” and “I love you.” Deaf people will greatly appreciate your concern.

A Church Committed – The deaf ministry is a church ministry. Never build the deaf ministry on just one person. If the music or youth leader moved away, the church would get a replacement. These ministries are commitments the church will continue. The church should be committed to the deaf ministry and should develop several workers who can interpret and teach.

A Missionary Ministry – The deaf ministry is inside the church, but it uses a different language and culture the same as a missionary would. Much time and effort is required to produce a fruitful deaf ministry. Do not expect to have a large deaf ministry quickly. Workers must become skilled in sign language, interpreting, and Deaf culture, which can take several years. The deaf ministry is a unique minority ministry.

“Go into ALL the world” includes the Deaf

More Workers – The deaf ministry requires more workers than other ministries. Three or four workers may be required to have a small deaf ministry. It is difficult for one interpreter to teach the Sunday Bible class, interpret the songs, interpret the sermon, and then do the same for the evening service. As a pastor does not do everything on the platform in a service, an interpreter should not be required in all areas of a service. Also, an interpreter cannot listen and benefit from the sermon while interpreting. It is wise to develop several interpreters and workers who can share responsibilities. A ministry can be limited when there are only a few workers.

Advanced Preparation – It is extremely helpful for the interpreter to have the order of service several days early. Each song may require up to two hours or more of preparation and practice. More songs means more preparation needed. Just as the hearing service is planned, practiced, and presented well, interpreters should spend time making their parts of the service the best possible.

More Than Interpreting – Effective deaf ministries must seek to develop Deaf people into strong Christians who can serve the Lord. Pastors may not know sign language, but they can train workers to help Deaf people learn, grow, and develop.

Qualified Workers – Just because a person knows sign language does not mean he is qualified to interpret or teach. The church has standards that workers must meet before being asked to teach or lead in worship. Interpreters should meet the church qualifications before teaching or interpreting. Remember, The Lord also has qualifications for leaders.

Delayed Message – Speakers should be aware that there will be a “pause” or delay before the deaf can respond. Interpreting requires time to process the message into signs. Deaf listen with their eyes and must first see before they can respond to the speaker.

Trained Leaders – Deaf ministry leaders may know sign language, but may lack leadership skills. Teach and train leaders from within the ministry to help build the ministry and reach your area for Christ.

Different Culture – Deaf culture involves a different viewpoint on many things. Many differences can be a positive influence on the hearing congregation. Learning about Deaf culture makes pastors more effective in teaching and preaching to Deaf people.

More Training – Pastors should require deaf ministry workers to improve their signing and ministry skills. SWM offers the American Sign Language Institute (ASLI) workshop annually. The church should consider sending deaf ministry workers to ASLI every year. Personally, I have been signing since 1976. I still attend ASL workshops to improve my signing skills.

Use the Deaf Ministry
– The deaf ministry can be a blessing to the whole church. Have special music signed by a Deaf person or a Deaf Choir. Train Deaf men to become leaders. Teach Deaf to be involved in the ministry. Remember, it is a deaf MINISTRY!

Conclusion – Deaf ministries can become strong, and Deaf people can become good Christians. It is important that pastors stay involved in and aware of the deaf ministry. Let SWM help your deaf ministry. Contact Jon by clicking here.

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