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  • Ernest Richards

One Fundamental Flaw in "Deaf Ministries"

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

I think we hearing people tend to think, “Oh, that church has a ‘Deaf ministry?’ Well, that’s great! Problem solved!”

Unfortunately, that is all too often not the case.

Just heard of a church in another state that has a number of Deaf people attending, and provides ASL interpreters. Fantastic, right? Unfortunately, it was decided that was too big a distraction for the hearing folks during the service. So the Deaf were moved over to one side of the sanctuary, and in their new location, many can no longer see the interpreter.

So guess what?

Many of the Deaf are hurt (understandably), and are choosing no longer to attend church. Would you continue to go, if you had no way of understanding what was being said in the message, the announcements, the prayers?

I am hearing, not deaf.

I thank God for every hearing person who studies Deaf culture and ASL in order to minister to the Deaf! Thank God that He has laid such a desire on your heart!

But though I don't mean to be critical, there is a problem, and it is fundamental:

The one flaw of all "Deaf Ministries" conducted by the hearing is the Deaf have to depend on hearing clergy to make all their choices for them. People who may strongly sympathize, but can’t possibly know what it is to be Deaf, making decisions for Deaf people, often without receiving adequate input from the Deaf, themselves.

This is one looming reason why it seems the best solution is "Deaf church." That is, a church that is run by the Deaf, for the Deaf, with a Deaf pastor, whenever possible. A church where the congregants don't have to depend on hearing "clergy" showing up to turn on the lights, open the doors, and preach or interpret what is said in the pulpit.

It’s disheartening to discover that too many of those challenges Deaf believers face are ones that WE impose on them (usually unwittingly, and often with the best intentions!).

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