How To Learn Sign Language

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Throughout the years I have noticed that those who have been successful in deaf ministry have some things in common. What makes the difference in deaf ministries and leaders? Is it looks, ego, education, personality, or abilities?  If so, I can only qualify in two of these areas, good looks and ego (smile)!. Why is it that some with great abilities have poor ministries, but some with poor abilities (as me) have great ministries?  What do those with good deaf ministries have in common?  How did they learn Sign Language? You will be surprised at the absence of things you thought were most essential!

Following is a Proven Method to Learn Sign Language
The  Method May Surprise You!

1. Be a Soul-winner – Signs begin with the heart, not the hands. Go with the Gospel to the deaf, and I guarantee your signs will quickly improve. When you realize that the greatest need of the deaf is not to hear but to be saved, you will learn how to sign. As you go with the Gospel, the Lord also promises to go with you. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations… Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20). Now it is just common sense that the Lord will help you learn signs when you “go” for Him.  As you go with the Gospel, you will be surprised how many signs the Lord brings to rememberance. Many great leaders  began because they had a burden to fulfill the great commission to the deaf. Never lose your compassion and burden for the deaf!

2. Teach the Deaf – When you teach the deaf, you will quickly learn “more” signs to teach the lesson. It is amazing how you remember the new signs and have a recall on the old. As you fulfill the second-half of the Great Commission, you quickly improve as you see the deaf learning and growing in the Lord. Teaching the deaf the Word of God is better than interpreting a hearing message. When you teach, you have all week to study your lesson and signs. You are in control of the lesson. But when you interpret, you, and sometimes the pastor, don’t know what is coming next. As you become a good teacher, you will become a better interpreter. Teach the deaf one-on-one or in a class and the Holy Spirit will also open your heart and head to Sign Language. As you teach with your hands, the Holy Spirit will teach your heart. No one can grow without the Word of God – No One!

3. Train the Deaf – Teaching is informing and training is instructing.  As you train the deaf, they will also train you.  As you help them learn the Bible, they will help you learn signs.  You will learn more from deaf people than any book or class. Your greatest teacher will be the deaf. Never stop learning from them. Make notes of their culture and use of the language. Some deaf say, “I understood every sign, but what did he say.” Sign Language is not English changed into signs, but it is a separate language of the Deaf. You cannot learn deaf culture from classes or books only. It is learned as you live and mingle with the deaf. As you train the deaf, they will also train you.

4. Love the Deaf – Learn to socialize with the deaf at fellowships, events, parties and gatherings. At first you may feel as an outsider, but soon they will accept you. Deaf people can look at your face and know if you love them or not.

Remember that some deaf are unable to fellowship at home, work or even in church. Many parents and friends never learn Sign Language. That is why deaf love to be with other Deaf and those who love the deaf. They love to have special times in their own world. As you love the Deaf, the Deaf will love you. I often say, “Love will cover a multitude of signs.” As you enter their world, they will respect and love you more than as a friend, teacher, and deaf worker. Never lose your  “burden” and “love” for the deaf. Love the deaf and they will love you.

5. Encourage the Deaf Spiritually – Many minister to the social needs of the deaf. At times some deaf need a friend, not just an interpreter. Professional interpreters must walk away with the doctors, nurses or lawyers, but when you are in a deaf ministry, you need to remain.  You should be “there” to encourage and pray with them. Give them hope from the Word of God. Be a friend in the time of need. I promise that Deaf people will always remember that you were “there” when they needed you. As you weep and pray with them, it will be a “special time” they will never forget. Your goal is also to teach Bible principles that will change their lives. There is no substitute for the Word of God. When you encourage the deaf, they will encourage you.

Conclusion – As you do these five things, you will be involved in the greatest teaching class in the world. You will become part of the deaf community and culture. Some of the most important times are outside the church activities.

The deaf will help you as you help them. The Lord will help you as you help the deaf. The Lord and the Holy Spirit  should always be involved in your ministry.

This is how you really learn Sign Language!


The Deaf Ministry

Heart – Head – Hands

All  three are required for a good Deaf ministry.

Heart = A God-Given Burden

Head = Mature Bible Knowledge

Hands = Ability to Sign to Deaf

A Successful Deaf Ministry begins with the Heart.

When you have heart, head and hands,
You can build a good Deaf ministry.
An absence of one will hinder your ministry.

Some have hands, but no head.
Some have heart, but no hands.
Some have head, but no heart.

Hands Only
An Interpreting Ministry

Heart Only
A Short-Term Ministry

Head Only
A Hearing Ministry

Heart & Head
(No Hands)
No Communication

Heart & Hands
(No Head)
No Learning Growth

Head & Hands
(No Heart)
No Spiritual Growth

Heart – Head – Hands
A Successful Deaf Ministry

Which Kind Of Ministry Do You Have?

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