The Deaf Ministry Coordinator
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Individuals who read Romans 10:14 tend to think of the verse as applying only to people who can “hear” physically, but there are many people throughout the world who cannot “hear” the gospel with their ears. However, they still can understand it, receive it, and embrace it. What is necessary for all people to hear the gospel? There must be a messenger who will proclaim it. The King James Version states that they need “a preacher” to deliver the gospel to them. Does that mean that a person must become a licensed minister to proclaim the Word of God to others? Of course, the answer is no. The point is all believers are to declare the gospel by every means possible.
The deaf and hard of hearing have their own language—sign language—and since they often cannot communicate with the hearing individuals verbally they rely on people willing to learn their language.
A deaf ministry coordinator is a necessary part of a church’s deaf ministry. He or she is responsible to oversee all aspects of the deaf ministry within that local church. The coordinator makes sure there are interpreters scheduled for each service, teaches or oversees the deaf class, plans social events for the deaf, and helps train interpreters.
Essentials for an Effective Deaf Ministry Coordinator
Support of Pastor. Pastoral support is essential. Most pastors readily welcome deaf ministry since they recognize that it adds a greater dimension to the church body. It empowers them to reach people with the gospel they could not reach otherwise. A pastor places great trust and confidence in the deaf ministry coordinator. The coordinator in turn must work well with the pastor, church leaders, and the other interpreters if the church is fortunate enough to have other interpreters. It would be almost impossible for the deaf ministry coordinator or the interpreter to let the Spirit work through him or her if he or she is at odds with the pastor or others in leadership.
Deaf ministry is not a ministry unto itself but is a vital part of the total church ministries. All departments of a church are important, and usually there are several members who possess the necessary skills to perform the needed ministries. However, for one to coordinate a deaf ministry and/or to be an interpreter for the deaf requires acquired skills that possibly only one or a few individuals of a church have.
The coordinator of deaf ministry fulfills a role to the deaf similar to the role the pastor fulfills to those with hearing, although the coordinator does not take the place of the pastor. Since few pastors are able to communicate through signs, the coordinator or interpreter provides an invaluable link between the deaf person and his or her pastor.
Prayer. Prayer is an integral part of the life of the coordinator and interpreters. Just as the minister prays to have the mind of God for each service, the interpreter should seek God so he or she may be sensitive to the Spirit and prepared to interpret the worship and message effectively.
Skilled in Sign Language. To be qualified to be a deaf ministry coordinator, the person needs to be skilled in sign language; he or she does not have to be hearing although often they are. For the deaf and hard of hearing, an interpreter becomes the one proclaiming the gospel—the preacher, the singer, and even the choir. What a tremendous responsibility to the deaf! An interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing does the work of a missionary while at home—reaching out to those of another culture and language. That person and his or her team of interpreters hold the destiny of souls in their hands. Without a deaf ministry there possibly would be no one in the local church to preach to the deaf or to teach Bible studies in their language.
How shall the deaf and hard of hearing hear without an interpreter? It is vital to have interpreters for the deaf to bridge the gap of understanding within the local church. Coordinators and the deaf ministry team should continually work to improve their skills. Many districts have district-supported retreats and conferences for the deaf and interpreters. The General Home Missions Division sponsors the National Deaf Ministry Conference annually.
These are great opportunities to enhance one’s interpreting skills and receive fresh inspiration for ministry to the deaf. Deaf ministry coordinators should attend these conferences as often as possible and encourage their interpreting team and deaf members to attend. There they will form friendships with fellow believers with similar needs and interests in church ministry. The deaf are very communal oriented and these conferences provide perfect opportunities for them to fellowship with others. There they will also witness other deaf individuals receiving the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues!
The deaf want to be considered as other believers in the church. They want people to speak to them, and they need friends within the church the same as those who are able to hear. Due to the language barrier, however, many hearing and deaf believers fear trying to communicate with each other. Still, deaf individuals are people just like those who hear; they need friendship. A smile is understood in any language. When the pastor says, “Shake hands and be friendly with someone around you,” please do not look past the deaf and go to someone with whom you may communicate more comfortably. The deaf are brothers and sisters with needs and feelings the same as those who can hear. Also, the deaf and hard of hearing should be friendly to the hearing; they can show by example that they understand a smile.
Deaf ministry can be a vital part of most churches. It gives the pastor the opportunity to reach out with the gospel to those he probably could not impact otherwise, and it allows the church body to continually remember there are fellow believers who may not communicate exactly like they do, but who are invaluable members of the body of Christ. Further, it reminds us all that there are many people in our world with varied cultures and languages—all of whom need the opportunity to receive salvation through Jesus Christ.
Deaf ministry coordinators have a great responsibility but also great rewards as God uses them to lead the lost to the Savior.
Sharon Davis serves as the Deaf Ministry coordinator for Missouri. She previously served as coordinator of Deaf Ministry at Florissant Valley Apostolic Church and also as secretary of National Deaf Evangelism. She presently serves as historian for National Deaf Evangelism. She is the wife of Richard M. Davis.
This article “The Deaf Ministry Coordinator” by Sharon Davis was excerpted from the Pentecostal Herald. November 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.