Things to Remember…
• Take an interest in their lives. Find out who they really are and what struggles and triumphs they are experiencing. Get to know them as great friends.
• Don’t be shy, communicate! Deaf people don’t bite! They aren’t lepers either, though sometimes they feel as if they are. Trying to communicate with a Deaf individual can be terrifying, just keep in mind that this is how Deaf people feel on a day-to-day basis. Relax and just take it slow. If you don’t know BSL, try writing. Also, occassional gestures are appropriate.
• Make sure that the church has materials to meet a Deaf person’s needs. There are some materials to help build faith and help them become strong believers, such as the Easy Reading Edition of the Sabbath School lesson and sermons or studies in ASL on DVDs.
• Get them involved! Don’t let your Deaf member(s) be mere spectators! Find out what their spiritual gifts are and put them to work! By developing true friendships and actively involving Deaf people in ministry, they’ll feel less like spectators.
• Socialise! Invite them to your home for a meal. Make sure they’re invited to church socials and make certain they are participating rather than sitting on the sidelines like a wall flower finding comfort in the refreshments.
• Don’t isolate Deaf people. If a Deaf person asks what was just said, don’t fall for the temptation to say, “It’s not important.” Or “I’ll tell you later.”
• Assume nothing! Never assume that the interpreter is taking care of all the needs of Deaf members or visitors. Also, find out how to meet their needs on Sabbath and how they would like to be involved in the church. Each person is different, just as you and your friends are different.
• Do not make decisions for Deaf members. Do not try to protect or control them.
• Be a student! Ask Deaf people about their culture and listen to them. What better way to learn than just being with Deaf people! Drink in their world and learn from them.
• Never forget that you, as a hearing person, are a stranger or a foreigner in the Deaf culture. It is an all too common complaint that hearing workers engaged in Deaf ministry don’t have a real heart for Deaf. They think “hearing” and act superior. Always guard against this.