Deaf Ministry 401a: Deaf Leadership

If you have not read my other blog posts about Deaf Ministry 101, 201, 301 I suggest you do so as it may help with other areas that you are interested in about.

For the past few weeks or maybe for awhile, I have recieved numerous video-phone calls from many interpreters, emails from people I have never met before, and even messages from people on my Facebook page that I do not even have on my friends list. It amazes me that God has been directing people to search for answers for guidance in Deaf Ministry issues.

Several questions I will post here for now….

#1 “How do you get a Deaf person to become workers in Deaf Ministry?”

Hmmm…it is true, “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few” A wise man once told me that 80% of people (especially Deaf) need to be told what to do and the other 20% are pretty much capable to lead and know what to do. That means 2 out of 10 people will be the “leaders” while the other 8 are “followers” But does that mean the “followers” are excused from not serving? No! They can still serve.

For instance, our Deaf Ministry at our church. We have several teams of workers. We have a Deaf Worship Team which is the basic CORE group of our Deaf Worship every week. People that do the music, the tech, the leading, and the praying which involves one-on-ones or those who come forward at the invitational time. How was this team put together? We took the mature Christians and selected the ones that we felt God was leading to involve into our Worship every week. Does every do a job every week? No…some weeks, the music people will be different….some weeks, the tech person is different….some weeks the decision guiders are different.  How do we train these people? Once a year we have a training that is specifically for our team…to cover all areas, to review guidelines or rules, to overview the past year and to share feedbacks on whatever is needed to be addressed. We learn from each other and we uplift each other.

Training is a biggggggggg MUST for any person that wants to be a “leader” involved in any ministry. I tend to think Deaf Ministry has the bigger challenge because most of the trainings are either hearing-led or interpreted which pretty much doesnt stick sometimes. Why I say that? Several of our Deaf Worship Team members went to a training that was led at our church which was interpreted. The workshop training was an all day event which had group times, discussion times, and self evaluation times. But the thing of it is, if its not Deaf-led…it will not stick as well as a training that is Deaf-led. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say…I remember things I learned in a Deaf conference 4 or 5 years ago more than I learned from the training that I just took at a hearing-led workshop last month. Its not that the trainers or the teacher was not good, no. Its a deaf thing. Its just culturally natural for a Deaf person to learn BEST from a Deaf person.

Aside from the training once a year, we also have a once a month meeting which we pool together ideas for outreach events, concerns, feedbacks, prayer for each other, prayer for the people that come to our church, and prayer for the people that do not come to our church.

It amazes me, and don’t get me wrong. Deaf Ministries that are led by the interpreters are a good thing for awhile but eventually, those interpreters need to be praying and empowering their Deaf little by little to take on more jobs. Jobs such as setting up potluck for fellowships. Or visitations to people that have visited the church but hasn’t been there for awhile. Picking up people to bring them to church. Little jobs like that can do a big thing for a Deaf Ministry.

When I first came to Southeast, the Deaf Ministry was going on its 20th year as an interpreted ministry which was just a handful of Deaf people and lots of hearing folks who were taught ASL from classes. There was a Sunday School class led by one Deaf and one interpreter. There was occasional Deaf Socials which was hearing-led. Very seldom did that Deaf volunteer to do anything unless asked to do so…again the 80% vs 20% illustration from up above.

I knew that in my mind and heart, God wanted to see Deaf do the work. I can proudly say that probably 98% of the ministry work today is Deaf-led at our ministry and that is the goal that every Deaf Ministry should have. About the only thing that our hearing folks do now is interpret our sunday morning services, interpret for weekday classes, or voice interpret for our Deaf Worship.

#2 Once they become leaders for the Deaf Ministry, is seminary education encouraged?

I am probably going to bite myself answering this question but I will answer the same way that I have always answered to anyone who asked this to me. Do I think going to a seminary is important to being a leader for the Deaf Ministry? Not always. but…… do I think getting some training or participating in courses, related to a seminary, to help that leader’s knowledge in the ministry field? Yes, of course…

I have taken courses, I have been to workshops, I have been to trainings, I have had one-on-ones with many pastors via videophone or in person. But I can honestly say, I learned my best lessons before I did any of these. I also learned more from being in the field “DOING the work” than going to a workshop and learning about “how to DO the work”

There is a friend of mine who I respect as a friend who sometimes laughs at me because I am not a big fan of books. I have tons of books, don’t get me wrong. But I am not crazy. As a matter of fact, this friend of mine gave me around 15-20 books that he got free from a convention that was here in town. Still to this day, I have only read one book. There are books that my supervisor has given me to read, I read them because my supervisor asks me to read them and give her feedback. But safe to say, if my supervisor didn’t ask for me to read and give her feedback, it would probably be making use of itself leveling my table to be even.

Do I tell people to go to seminary to get an education if they feel called into leadership? Yes but I tell them to do it for themselves, not for other people. When I was first encouraged to consider going into the seminary myself, I was like “OK, I will go” but the more I realized, I realized I was going because I wanted to please the people who encouraged me, not for myself. OK..maybe you say, no we need to be going because its for God. True! But eventually if your heart is not in it, then it is truly not for God nor yourself, its for other people.

I had this young Deaf guy come to me and ask if I had graduated from any seminary. I told him that I wasnt a graduate. He kind of looked puzzled and come to realize, that my thinking was the same as his thinking. Not all leaders out there are scholars or seminary graduates. For those who did go through the years of school, I applaud with respect. For those who are not in school and going about the way that I have done, I applaud with respect evenly.  There was a song that had a lyric that said “The last to be chosen are the first He will call…and what He does through them will amaze one and all” 

Now to answer those who are pondering, “will Steve consider going to seminary now?” the answer is no, still. I will continue to take courses, trainings, and workshops….yes.

To my friend…..”Will Steve ever read all of them books I got him?” probably will but not all in once, but eventually I will, bro….smile!

#3 Once they become leaders, how do you find accountable people for that leader?

I think the leaders of any Deaf Ministry will agree with me when I say..it is IMPORTANT to have that accountability partner set up as soon as the leader is ready to take on their role. Tim Bender said it best at a fellowship when we was honoring a Minister… “Pastors (or leaders) are lonely in the field sometimes”  It is hard sometimes for a leader or a minister to do the work but have no physical support or outlet. I am always blessed to be able to depend on my videophone for support from several people that I call on for spiritual support. But suppose the videophone was never invented….many areas or cities do not have multiple ministers or deaf leaders who are able to get together for support and prayer.

One of the best things I love about my area is there are a total of 3 other leaders / ministers that I can call on for my support. Two are involved in another church. One is older and one is around my age. The other is my former pastor at the first Deaf church I attended. But if they are busy, I would have to drive one hour east to meet two other Deaf Ministers. Or I would need to drive 2 hours north to meet two other Deaf Ministers.

Accountability is important. Sadly, sometimes life gets in the way. Family needs, work needs, friends needs, and etc sometimes distract us. But its important…if leaders give give give give give support….where do they recieve recieve recieve recieve support?  

Until next time….I will finish up the remaining 5 questions….

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