General principles to keep in mind:
- Pray. You will need God's wisdom, humility, and guidance.
- A desire to minister to the Deaf is a desire to work cross-culturally, even in your own home town. If you are hearing, you are a learner in the Deaf community. Deaf people are the experts on Deaf culture, Sign language, and the Deaf world. They do not do things the same way that you do. They do not see the world like you do. Listen a lot. Be a servant.
- Keep in mind the long-term goal. If you want to see Deaf people grow deeply in the Word and in their relationship with God, and if you want to see this Deaf ministry reproduce, then from day one, remember that an indigenous Deaf church is your goal. Deaf leadership is key, even in the beginning. A Deaf Bible study leader who is a young Christian is a better leader than a hearing teacher who knows a lot. The Deaf leader relates to the Deaf people differently and is fluent in Sign Language. The Deaf leader will present a model that other Deaf people will be able to emulate. Hearing leaders, even unintentionally, often send the unspoken message to Deaf people that they'll never be able to lead, because they'll never be like that hearing person.
- Deaf ownership of the plan and vision is vital, even from the beginning. You may have a great vision and plan, but if the Deaf people feel it's yours and not theirs, it probably won't go very far.
- An interpreted service is NOT a prerequisite to Deaf church planting, and in fact, often slows the process. Even the best interpreter in the world cannot make a hearing worship service into a Deaf worship service. Start with a Deaf-led Deaf Bible study.
- If there is already a Deaf church in your community, defer to their expertise and experience in reaching their own community. Ask if there is anything you can do as a hearing church to support their efforts to reach the Deaf. Examples might be reaching or talking with Deaf people's hearing relatives, inviting the Deaf church's worship team or choir to share a truly Deaf song at your hearing worship service, committing to pray for the Deaf church leaders regularly, or offering free use of your facilities for some special or regular event or gathering. If you are a Sign Language interpreter, offer your interpreting services to the Deaf church leaders at their request. (They might request an interpreter to communicate with hearing landlords, pastors, family members, to attend special events, etc.)
- If there are several hearing churches with interpreters in your area, pursue and encourage the option of the Deaf Christians gathering together somewhere. Encourage Deaf leadership. Listen to the Deaf people and their vision or ideas for reaching their own community for Christ. If the Deaf do not own the vision and have leadership of the ministry, chances are that it either won't last or won't grow. And it almost certainly won't reproduce.
- If you can find no Deaf church or ministry in your community, look for Deaf Christians whom you could encourage to start a Deaf Bible study or home church. Provide them with a room to meet in. If you are able to communicate with them, meet with them individually, pray with them, encourage them, and seek to see them using their God-given gifts to minister to other Deaf people.
- If you can find no Deaf Christians in your area, pray. Are there Deaf believers in nearby cities or towns that you could invite to come regularly to your town to lead an evangelistic Bible study? If not and if God has placed Deaf people on your heart, then start or continue learning Sign Language. Learn to sign like Deaf people sign … it really is a completely different language from the spoken language of your country. You are learning a "foreign" language, even though it is used by people in your own city. Then begin to befriend some Deaf people. Don't invite them to your hearing church. Go into their Deaf world. Go to Deaf sports events, Deaf cultural events, Deaf gatherings at coffee houses, etc. Invite them over to your home. Give them time to develop trust in you. Share your life and your Lord with them. If you see even one Deaf person come to Christ, then explore with them what they can do to reach their Deaf friends for Christ. Stand behind them, support them, pray with them and for them. Expect God to work.
Look for a Sign Language class in your community, taught by a Deaf person. You might find this at the local Deaf club or association, at a community college or university, or at a church with Deaf people in it. Once you begin to learn, spend time with Deaf people outside of class. Practice signing. Let them correct your signs. Never correct their signs – it's their language. Learn about Deaf people's lives and culture and values, not just their language.
DOOR does not provide any sort of sign language teaching or materials for hearing people. If you are looking for videos or books about American Sign Language, you can explore the following links:
If you would like to learn a sign language other than American Sign Language, contact the national Deaf Association in your country.
As translations of Bible passages in various sign languages are approved as Scripture, we are making them available at deafbibles.com or on the Deaf Bible app. This is a Deaf-friendly interface, requiring little knowledge of any written language to navigate. Encourage your Deaf friend to check out this website. New sign languages are being added as they are completed.
For Deaf Christian materials available through other ministries, explore these links.
The very best thing that you could provide for them would be a connection with Deaf believers in their area. We find that by far the best evangelism tool with Deaf people is a face-to-face encounter with a Deaf believer.
DOOR has produced an evangelism tool for Deaf adults called "God Connect How?" (Deaf title) / "How Can We Have A Relationship With God?" (hearing title). For more details and contact us.
OneHope, in partnership with DOOR, has produced a dynamic evangelistic tool targeted towards Deaf children. Interspersed with computer-generated, photo-realistic animation are live-action scenes, starring a DOOR Deaf missionary family, the Sorensons. For more details contact us.
For Deaf Christian materials available through other ministries, check these links. (If you are looking for videos produced by DOOR in the past, they are now available through Deaf Missions.)
The majority of our staff worldwide is Deaf. We also have a few hearing people in support or administrative roles who work well as a team player in a majority-Deaf environment with Deaf leaders. If you feel that God is directing you toward our ministry, please use the Contact Form to get in touch with us and indicate whether you are interested in serving as a volunteer, or as a paid staff member.