Continue reading for a deep dive into the needs of the Deaf community and the specific steps we are taking to meet those needs.
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DEAF 316 MINISTRIES
Communicating the Love of Christ One Sign at a Time
”How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?Romans 10:14 CSB
DEAF 316 MINISTRIES MISSION & NEEDS
This document will explain Deaf 316 Ministries’ goals, the reasons why the Deaf community is unique and so unreached, why typical church Deaf ministries are ineffective, and the specific projects Deaf 316 plans to complete in order to help bring them the gospel.
ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND AND MISSION
Deaf 316 Ministries is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry devoted to making biblical resources available in sign language. We believe that the Deaf community should have access to the abundance of great Christian resources available online and in print. We also strive to see the Deaf community genuinely seek after God and have a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
Despite the advancements in technology, very few resources exist on the internet for the Deaf to be connected to the Bible today. Hearing people often take for granted what they don’t realize to be a blessing, their hearing. They can easily watch a sermon on YouTube or read Bible based articles, commentaries and Christian books. They simply aren’t forced to use a language that is difficult for them to understand.
Currently, with the exception of the Bible, few resources are being translated into sign language (1). We plan to change that and are the premier organization focusing on filling that gap by providing interpreted and translated biblical content into American Sign Language.
Our goal as an organization is to accomplish the following:
- Provide the Deaf community with access to free interpreted biblical content via the internet.
- Interpret biblical content including:
- Sermons / Devotionals
- Q&A / Commentary style videos
- Bible studies
- Christian books
- Church leadership resources
- Biblical counseling resources
- Educate the hearing world/church on the needs of the Deaf.
- Language needs
- Deaf ministry needs
We hope to further our progress to reaching these goals through the projects outlined below.
There are roughly 70 million Deaf people worldwide, yet only 2% of them have been exposed to the gospel story of Jesus Christ, meaning 98% of all Deaf people on earth die without knowledge of our Savior (2).
American Sign Language (ASL) is used widely among the Deaf in the United States, Canada and parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia. It ranks as the 3rd most used language in the U.S, and it’s estimated to be used by up to 3 million people (3).
The Deaf are unique in that they are considered a distinct people group because they share a common language and culture. Most Deaf around the world don’t have access to the Bible because their language is visual and not based on written words. There are over 400 sign languages in use, and they all have their own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, so they don’t match word-for-word translations of a spoken language (4). Further compounding the problem is that less than 25% of countries worldwide recognize sign language as a legitimate national language (5).
- Literacy: A common misconception is that Deaf people read English perfectly and therefore can rely on reading lips and closed captions. However, the reading ability of Deaf people varies very widely, with some studies showing that up to 50% of Deaf children graduate high school at or below a fourth-grade reading level (6). This is not to say that Deaf people cannot read. Some are very proficient at reading, however the quickest way to reach them with the gospel is not to teach them to read, but instead to translate Scripture into their heart language – sign language.
Some churches and ministries believe that providing captions and transcripts are enough for the Deaf and are the same as providing sign language interpretation. Considering English is not their first language, that would be like going to China to teach Chinese people but still speaking to them in English. Of course, no one does that because it’s more effective to speak in their native language. Only providing captions and transcripts is basically saying that if the Deaf want access to the sermon, they should learn English, exposing the common misunderstanding the hearing world has regarding Deaf needs.
When we deny the gospel to anyone in their heart language, regardless of the reason, we are effectively saying, “I’m ok that you may not know Jesus and are headed on a path to hell for all of eternity.”
- Family: 90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents (7). As a certified interpreter for over 15 years, I’ve seen an astonishing lack of family support for Deaf children as parents often don’t learn ASL and cannot communicate effectively with their child. Even those raised in a Christian home can still have limited Bible understanding.
- Church: Many churches don’t have interpreters for the Deaf to engage in worship services or Bible studies. They often feel isolated from the church body because hearing church members rarely engage them and often only view the interpretation as something “beautiful” or “artistic,” not realizing that sign language is a very real language used by very real people.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that if a church provides an interpreter for language access, oftentimes church pastoral staff view this as a sufficient Deaf ministry and never actually engage those members of their church body. Leaving a Deaf ministry in the hands of a single interpreter is both inappropriate and ineffective.
Simply speaking, many hearing churches expect the Deaf to be able to operate in their hearing culture, their language, and their church, which many Deaf people struggle to do.
Because of this, the Deaf often leave the church never to return because they simply did not feel welcome and had limited access to church activities and services.
- Cost: Many churches cannot or will not pay for interpreting services. Finding volunteer interpreters can be difficult and the Deaf community often views the church’s refusal to invest in interpreters as uncaring. Churches that provide interpreted services typically never grow into anything beyond an “accessibility ministry” due to church leaders being resistant to spending money on growing the ministry by hiring/training a Deaf pastor. This is almost always the case when the interpreters are volunteers because the church is already accustomed to having a “free” Deaf ministry.
- Perception: Because the 70 million Deaf people in the world are spread out across the globe and don’t reside in a single country or location, they are a majority often treated as a minority. Some churches and translation ministries view the Deaf population as a people group that is not large enough to invest in and would rather spend resources on “high impact” languages, those considered mother tongues for the greatest number of people. However, if everyone in the church thinks this way, every minority, including the Deaf, will fall through the cracks.
We believe even the smallest minority are image bearers of God and still need to know Jesus died for them.
- False Religions: Due to the absence of the Christian church actively engaging the Deaf community, other false religions, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses, have successfully filled that void with aggressive evangelism and a willingness to spend money.
The Mormon Church has put a considerable amount of effort and money into Deaf ministry and sign language access. They routinely train 30 to 40 Deaf and hearing sign language missionaries every year through their Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Many resources on their website and the entire Book of Mormon are also accessible in ASL. There are now over 130 LDS Deaf churches around the world (8).
Sparing no expense, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been even more aggressive in Deaf outreach. Using technology to their advantage, their entire website and their Bible (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) is accessible in ASL. They carry tablet computers with ASL and other translations of their beliefs to make it possible to witness to the Deaf. There are now over 231 Deaf congregations in the U.S. alone, with many more worldwide (9).
Why are the Deaf drawn to these religions? It’s a simple combination of the Deaf searching for more information about God from someone who knows their heart language and these religions actively going after them and caring for them. One prominent member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses Deaf ministry put it this way, “Other religions ignore us. Only the Jehovah’s Witnesses took the time to teach me” (10).
STATEMENT OF NEED
Prayer: Our primary need is prayer. Because of the misconceptions about the Deaf and unawareness of language needs, and because they so often have felt ignored and isolated by both the hearing community and the church, religion is largely absent from Deaf culture. So, we pray that God, in His grace and mercy, would empower us to move and lovingly reach this people group.
Active Supporters: We need supporters to help advertise and fundraise on our behalf by merely telling their friends and family why they support us. This could be as simple as sending out an email, text or social media message with links to our About and Support pages, along with both an encouragement to subscribe to our newsletter, and a reminder that by partnering with us financially, they will be a part of a ministry dedicated to reaching one of the most unreached people groups in the world.
Funding: We pray that God would send financial partners who believe with us that the Deaf need to hear about Jesus. We pray they would come alongside us and help fund the following projects:
The following is a list of current and future projects, detailing what they are and why we feel they are important.
- Sermons: While Bible reading is extremely important and the Deaf do have access to one in ASL, access to sermons can be a valuable resource (1).
Sermons can help them read and understand the Bible better by allowing a gifted preacher to teach and explain what the Bible actually means and how to apply God’s Word to their lives.
- Q&A/Commentaries: Often times someone with a question about a biblical topic or specific passage of Scripture will simply search the internet for an answer.
While sermons are great, sometimes a short answer cutting right to the heart of the issue can be invaluable.
- Devotionals: We also provide short devotionals written by both Deaf and hearing believers illustrating solid biblical truth.
- Christian Books: Just like sermons, Christian books can be immensely helpful in understanding in great detail, key issues dealing with theology and Christian living.
To date, we have translated “Coronavirus and Christ” and “Good News of Great Joy: 25 Devotional Readings for Advent” by John Piper.
- CSB Day-by-Day Chronological Bible: This Bible is designed to help you read the Bible in a year and provides introductions to the daily readings.
We seek to provide Bible tools to help them clearly understand the Bible, show how to read it, how to study it, and explain why it is important.
We will be interpreting the daily introductions only, not the actual biblical text.
- Biblical Dictionary: Just like in the hearing world, the Deaf can be exposed to vocabulary while watching a sermon or reading a book that they are unfamiliar with. This is more common among new believers who may not know the meaning of theological terms or know who certain biblical characters are and why they are important.
We aim to compile a list of biblical terms and people, along with explanations of their meaning and importance that users can freely look up when needed.
- Illustrated Bible Stories: While learning about biblical stories straight from the Bible is of utmost importance, sometimes explaining a biblical story or concept in a more conversational tone can aid in understanding.
In order to do this, we’ll utilize Deaf artists to illustrate biblical stories while the story itself is explained via sign language.
- Church Leadership Resources: Deaf individuals in the church rarely have leadership opportunities due to hearing church staff, deacons, elders, and Bible study leaders almost always taking those positions. Because of this, several negative effects can potentially creep up such as resentment due to the perception that these opportunities were stolen or withheld from them, or an attitude of apathy toward leadership altogether.
We aim to provide resources that will help inspire and equip Deaf leaders within and outside the church.
*All videos will be produced by Deaf Christians who currently serve in leadership positions.
- Biblical Counseling Resources: Just like their hearing counterparts, the Deaf are also prone to issues such as anxiety, depression, and marital/family problems, as well as more specific issues such as struggles with stigma, prejudice, and feelings of isolation due to communication issues.
While these resources will not replace the need for in-person individual counseling, they will help shed some light on these issues from a biblical perspective.
*All videos will be produced by Deaf licensed biblical counselors.
The Deaf are an underserved and often ignored group that we believe are image bearers of God and need to know Jesus died for them.
We believe that these projects will greatly benefit the Deaf community by providing them with solid biblical content, accessible anywhere the internet is available, all in their native “heart” language, sign language.
We are excited to partner with you to make all of this a reality.
President, Deaf 316 Ministries
For information on how to become a financial partner, check our Support Page>>.
- The ASLV Bible can be viewed on the Deaf Missions website as well as Deaf.Bible.
- Door International. Deaf Statistics
- Based on information provided by the CEO of Deaf Missions.
- Deaf Bible Society. HOW: Providing the Bible in Sign Language Videos
- International Mission Board. Hidden in Plain Sight: What You Need to Know about Deaf Peoples
- Gallaudet/National Science Foundation. Reading Research & Deaf Children / Traxler, C.B. (2000). The Stanford Achievement Test, 9th Edition: National Norming and Performance Standards for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students
- Door International. Why Deaf / National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Quick Statistics About Hearing
- Deaf LDS. Deaf/Sign Language Units
- Religion News Service. Jehovah’s Witnesses complete entire Bible in American Sign Language
- Victoria Advocate. Jehovah’s Witnesses lead in language ministry