USA (MNN) — A few years ago, Deaf Bible Society was connecting with Deaf churches across the United States for Scripture engagement training. There was just one problem. It was much harder than they realized to find Deaf churches.
JR Bucklew, Deaf Bible Society’s president, says some information they found online hadn’t been updated in years or even decades. “It seemed like it would be extremely helpful for not only us, but a lot of people to be able to go in and say, ‘I am looking for a church and I want it to be a Deaf church. Is there a Deaf church in my area?’ or ‘I don’t care if it’s a Deaf church. It can be an interpreter,’ or ‘I need it to be a Baptist church with an interpreter.’
“How does a Deaf person actually do that? Because if you just Google search your city and ‘Deaf church’, you’re not guaranteed to actually find anything.”
From there, Deaf Bible Society’s team knew they had to do something. So they created an online tool called Deaf Church Where! It’s a one-stop directory with current information for US churches with various levels of Deaf ministry.
“We have several hundred churches that are on that website and kind of in four primary categories,” Bucklew explains. “Just because a church has an interpreter does not mean they have a Deaf ministry. Ministry is growth, it’s building, it’s discipleship, it’s evangelism, there is interaction. If we just have an interpreter, most of what we have done is provided a Deaf person access or partial-access to what is being presented. So we call that an accessibility ministry.
“Then we have churches where we call them integrated churches where they maybe join the hearing Church for worship and they have an interpreter, but they have a Deaf Sunday school class or a Deaf life group or some sort of group for the Deaf congregants.
“Then we have the third category which would be, we call them supported Deaf churches. Now, this can be the Deaf mission — they have their own pastor, they have their own service, maybe they have their own building, but they function under the umbrella of a hearing church.
“Then the fourth one would just be an independent Deaf church. It’s an autonomous Deaf church, it has it’s own trustees or elders or deacons, they fund themselves and are in themselves. There are much fewer of those than the other categories, of course.”
Since Deaf Church Where launched, it has become one Deaf Bible Society’s more engaged tools, outside of their Deaf Bible app.
They can clearly see something like this was needed for a long time to connect Deaf believers and seekers with the local Body of Christ.
“We’ve had a lot of great feedback — a lot of that, people being upset that their churches weren’t in the directory! Which is good feedback for us because no one was telling us before where these churches were!”
Bucklew says, “We’ve had enough feedback and there’s enough growth and enough use, we’ve actually had to bring someone on staff to just sort of manage Deaf Church Where and reach out to churches and start engaging with churches and verifying [and] clean up the directory.”
Second, Bucklew advises, “I would say maybe visit one of them! If there is something in your area and you’re really curious and you’re praying with us and you’re considering involvement or giving, check out a local Deaf church and then ask them what their needs are…so you can pray with them.”
Finally, pray for Deaf believers who feel left out to be connected to the Body of Christ. Ask God to bless relationships among Deaf Christians and between Deaf and hearing believers so they can effectively reach lost people in their communities with the Gospel.
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.