The Deaf community is just that, a community. Deaf people have, of course, their own language in American Sign Language (ASL). They have their own cultural norms and customs. They also have their own unique set of challenges and obstacles.
Many ministries are doing more to spread their message to the Deaf community. Your ministry may want to take that leap of faith and spread your message to this group.
We think the first thing to do is gather knowledge. The more you know about the Deaf community, the better you can invite, welcome, and engage them.
Some Useful Vocabulary
Deaf (with a capital “D”) - Identifies as culturally Deaf. People who have a hearing loss, communicate using a sign language, and are involved in the Deaf community.
Deaf (lowercase “d”) - Medical term for hearing loss
Hard of hearing (“hoh”) - Varies depending on culture. In general, a person with hearing loss that is not severe.
Hearing - anyone who is not deaf or hard-of-hearing; people who have the ability to hear well.
Deaf culture - a culture connected by multiple traits such as sign language, deafness, traditions, and shared values.
90% of all deaf people are born to hearing parents, most of them with no experience in deafness.
2-3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.
Deaf individuals are 5 times more likely to be abused than their hearing peers.
Of the 10 million Deaf/HOH people in America, 2.8 million identify as LGBTQ.
Important Facts About American Sign Language (ASL)
- Deaf people who use ASL as their primary language are the largest unreached linguistic-cultural people group in North America.
Although ASL is currently the sixth most-used language in the U.S., not everyone can articulate the gospel in ASL, is saved, or feels led to minister to this population.
ASL is not simply a signed version of English and is referred to as “interpreted” and not “translated."
ASL has its own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. And— just like spoken language— there are even regional dialects!
The Deaf Community and Christianity
Deaf people are one of the largest unreached people groups with an estimated .2%-2% reached globally and only 2%-4% in the US reached with the gospel of Christ.
The Deaf are considered the third largest people group in the world who don’t have access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Less than 5% of all churches in the United States offer any outreach to Deaf people at all, and it is extremely rare to find a church that offers age-appropriate Christian teaching to Deaf children.
Some Deaf people that have been to church have been quickly turned away because church members would pray their deafness away. The Deaf community does not always see their deafness as a disability, but rather a different way to navigate the world.