Deaf Ministry 101: Music & Visual Aids

Hello to all my viewers out there. I am not sure who views my blog from out and beyond the Louisville area. I wanted to take this time to share some insights on my experiences with deaf ministry work with anyone who is considering starting up a new one, taking over one, or just along for the ride to support another person who is in the leading role. A few months ago, when I joined the blog world, one of my friends who is the associate pastor of another Deaf Church had something in mind for a deaf ministry series. I am not sure what he had in mind, but I guess I will go forward into it and see whether he jumps in or not. For the rest of you guys, feel free to ask questions or add your own comments.

As you may or may not know, I have 12 years of deaf ministry experience which I have held numerous roles from sunday school teacher, deaf ministry leader, deaf conference vice president, pastor, supporter, visitation group leader, Small groups leader, mentor, and others I can’t think of the top of my head now. I have led numerous workshops and preached about a dozen or more deaf revivals, ministry events, and deaf conferences.

But amid all of that I want to talk about is my second passion as a minister…music. Music has always been on my heart ever since I learned my first country music song which was in the 6th grade…the name of the song was “Always and Forever” by Randy Travis. I guess growing up with parents that loved that type of music, I really didnt have much other exposure other than what my family was listening to.

But when I got involved in the deaf ministry world, the first deaf song I saw in ASL was “Praise Him…Praise Him…Praise Him in the morning…Praise Him in the noontime…Praise Him…Praise Him….Praise Him until the sun goes down”  Interesting song, yes but it also became a weekly habit to sing that song in ASL every week. Almost like the doxolgy song that some churches today sing on a weekly basis…no offense, its not what I enjoy as a Deaf person and it does not communicate anything of interest to me.

In 2000, I joined a church that changed the entire perspective of how Deaf people needed to be reached through the lyrics of a song….this is the part where I want to label as: Welcome to PowerPoint.

Powerpoint has blessed many churches today…but praise be to God who gave man the ability to develop this because it helps ALOT of deaf churches and deaf ministries today. Especially in the area of sermons and music. In the case for sermons, a normal hearing person could look down and hear the minister speaking the verses as he follows along…whereas in the deaf ministry or deaf church’s case, the deaf can look at the powerpoint slide of the verse, look back at the minister signing the verse and later record the verse for themselves to check later for their own personal reading. It has helped tremendously in my ministry for the last few years.

it also has helped in the case for music.  If there is NO music video or visual aids to show of a song that God has led me to sing in ASL…all I have to do is type up the lyrics in powerpoint and voila…the deaf can follow it. Almost similiar to a screen with subtitles.

There is also the option of creating a movie yourself which is time-consuming and very little do it that I have seen. Programs like MoveMaker or Macromedia Flash are the typical programs to use for these if a desire is placed in my heart to create a music video with a selected song inputted. I beleive I have done maybe 4 or 5 of these type of files and have greatly benefited from using them time and time again.

Probably the most popular that most Deaf churches use are from Integrity I-Worship DVDs which consists of song mixed from hymns to contemporary Christian music. Subtitles are optioned in as well as beautiful pictures of scenery from waterfalls to ocean-crashing beaches. I beleive as we speak, there are 7 DVDs of Iworship @ home which has 14 songs each DVD. This is widely used in many Deaf churches that I have visited in various parts of the region.

Now the question is…after hearing about all the options that Deaf churches can us for music and visual aids…the question that may pop up frequently is “Why do Deaf NEED this?”

The answer is really quite simple…Deaf depends on visual because they can’t HEAR. Now some of us like myself and Stephen can hear a little bit but still the visual impact of a song makes the experience much more inspiring to worship. I cannot explain in words how much more my worship has been heightened through the use of visual aids. But then the next question pops up would be, “Isn’t using technology in churches the same as worshipping technology?”  No, not really. We appreciate techonology because it helps the worship alot more for Deaf. Although, I am a technology freak but I say that because I am always looking for better improvements to help the Deaf be more inspired through a Deaf Worship.

A hymnal book in a Deaf church is a great traditional way, but in today’s world..we need to get out of the “old wineskins” and start thinking new changes and new methods to reach the lost Deaf. In our case, the breakthrough would be through the use of powerpoint, visual aids, and things to exalt our Savior through the worship experience.

Closing this topic would be hard but I will for now…the last thing I would like to add, however, is that in the last 4 years that I have worked with Deaf ministry….I have seen more Deaf people remember Christian music through the use of a subtitled video or DVD that was used at a worship event. I can remember maybe 3 songs growing up by singing from the hymnal books or the paperback bulletins at church on sunday mornings….but I can remember almost an entire DVD of music from I-worship. 

Also, many of you may be asking “Deaf..music..sound…How can Deaf hear the music?” Do not worry, some of us can hear it and some of us can feel it. The key thing is: Bass.  If we turn it up enough, we can feel it so that the person signing the song on stage can be more inspired to sign with all their hearts…and the people in the congregation can sing with all their hearts too. Everything in a deaf church doesnt have to rely on sound, many Deaf churches today use no music…and sing in ASL only from the heart. Every singer has their own giftedness in music. Some are pure ASL, some are a mixture of ASL / English signs, and some are just directly from the heart with no music. All are used in Deaf worship. I personally do not do a song in ASL until I have studied the song for a few weeks. For example, I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe was the first song I did in ASL in 2003 for a deaf ministry event…..today, I totally do the song differently. What does that mean? The ASL version of songs can change from time to time….If God is in it, who can be against it?

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4 thoughts on “Deaf Ministry 101: Music & Visual Aids

  1. Pingback: Intro to Deaf Ministry: Methodology, Part 1 « The Silent Holocron

  2. Hi. I’m doing a paper for an “Exceptional Child” clas in Illinois for a teaching degree. I am part of a group doing a project on how to teach music (notes and rhythm) to children in the 5th grade with one of them being profoundly deaf. I found your site in my online search. I noted your “The key thing is: Bass.” But you also talk about technology. I am having a heck of a time finding information on technology for the deaf (maybe I should look that up specifically — I’ll do that next). But I was wondering if you could give me some insight as to what programs you use and maybe some key words to look up. I would appreciate it if you could. Thanks so much, Regina DeDominicis

  3. Hello Regina…I am sure by now, there are tons of bass products that can help deaf people now. In our church, we have something called a drum machine which produces a beat of music rhythms so that the deaf can easily follow. Many companies make these such as Boss, Akaki, Alesis, Roland, and few others. We have one and it has helped alot in our events and fellowships. Technology with music has really blossomed but there are still some limitations to sound itself…but if the deaf is more interested in visuals aids, then they will tend to forget about the bass. But if you are able to have them both, your deaf will have an awe-inspiring experience for sure. By the way, the drum machine has its own keyboard as well for you to play and record your own music. But it also has some preset numbers which has a recorded beat already to it. Hope that helps. One of the workshops I went to for music explained that deaf need to learn rhythm by counting the beats that they feel. Such as for example “Mary Had a Little Lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow” In that sentence alone, I can count 24 syllables (I may be wrong, I am deaf myself) Syllables maybe aligned with rhythms sometimes in lyrics or music. its like tapping your fingers on a table…while singing the song…how many times will you tap your fingers in that sentence..its visual for deaf to follow a tapping rather than hearing the notes in a lyric. Hope that helps some.

  4. Hello! My name is Beth and I work as a Sign Language Interpreter in Canada. I have been interpreting at my church for a few years and recently the church as a whole has wanted the Deaf to be more involved or rather feel more involved when we have our huge worship nights. We have a dance team that has done two dances with signs incorportated into the dance but that’s about it.

    my question to you is what can I do, along with the Deaf, to make the worship night more visual and dynamic for them?

    I look forward to your suggestions!

    Blessings
    Beth

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