USA (MNN) — While hearing Christians have a multitude of text Bible studies and devotionals at their fingertips, Deaf believers don’t have as many sign language resources for Scripture engagement. Many Deaf pastors, if they have formal theological training, are taught to exegete, present, and walk through written text rather than a sign language Bible in a visual format. Biblical sign language resources that are available aren’t always used to their full potential.
JR Bucklew, President of Deaf Bible Society, says that’s why they host Scripture engagement training in Deaf churches and communities to equip Deaf Christians for outreach.
“It’s the local Church’s responsibility to engage their communities with Scripture. But we found that the local Church, whether it be a Deaf church or church with a Deaf ministry, just often lacked the Bible itself — the American Sign Language Bible — or the experience or history of actually using that for Scripture engagement in order to do that well.”
Deaf Bible Society has a goal over the next 12 months to reach between 20 and 30 US cities with Scripture engagement training.
Bucklew explains, “In the US, it’s a one-day workshop-type event, but we work through several topics. We talk through strategic planning. How do we come together and really look at our community at a high-level view? Where are the Deaf churches in our area?… What are they doing? What do their outreach programs look like? What parts of the city are there Deaf people that we’re totally missing? Where are Deaf people gathering?”
From there, local Deaf Christian leaders answer those questions and come up with strategic plans to promote sign language Bible distribution, Deaf Bible studies, and other Scripture engagement ideas in their community.
You don’t need to have a formal leadership title to attend Scripture engagement training with Deaf Bible Society.
“The idea is you leave being a leader. So you may be a Deaf pastor that goes back and says, ‘You know, I can better integrate sign language Bibles into my sermons because that is what my community will use when they go home.’
“Or it could be Sally who goes home and she has Deaf ladies who come to her house every Thursday morning for coffee. She says, ‘You know, I think I’m going to have them watch together with me through the book of John over the next few months.’ You leave a leader, meaning you are leading your community through the engagement of sign language Bibles.”
These workshops with Deaf Bible Society are available internationally as well. They are hoping to host Scripture engagement training in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. These workshops go over the same subjects over the course of three to five days rather than just one day.
The ministry also distributes Deaf Bible content internationally via microSD cards. Bucklew says, “We have a goal of every country or every language group we do a training in to then see throughout the year 1,000 microSD cards distributed with Bibles on them, which means we have the potential this next year to distribute 29,000 Bibles internationally, and then in the US with digital downloads, the number is limitless.”
After everyone goes home, Deaf Bible Society follows-up with the attendees to assess whether or not certain goals were met.
Ultimately, the Scripture engagement trainings encourage local Deaf leaders to keep the momentum of Scripture engagement going in their own communities.
“We go just a couple of times and then the local community can host their own trainings and workshops. Then it becomes something that the local Church really takes ownership of…. Really, we’re just here to continue to develop good resources that the Church can use to engage their people well.”
To get updates from Deaf Bible Society and their Scripture engagement training, connect with Deaf Bible Society on Facebook! You can also sign up to be on their contact list and let them know you’re interested in Scripture engagement.
If you attend a Deaf church or your church has a Deaf ministry, you can email Deaf Bible Society at [email protected] and ask about hosting a Scripture engagement training in your area.
“We need the other Deaf churches or the other churches in our community to be involved with this for the sake of engaging Deaf people with a Bible so they can come to know Christ.”
Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society.