Monday, September 7, 2009

#22-Signing to songs in front of your church when no one in the church is deaf

Side note: If your church does have deaf people then go on signing, this does not refer to your church then.

From what I can tell, church sign language teams are on the decline in churches so this may not pertain to your church anymore. But there was a time from roughly 1999-2006 that sign language was a strong ministry within each church and a church was only relevant if they had a sign language team that could sign to the latest Michael W. Smith CD....


The irony of course was that a whole ministry was being developed around something to which there was no target audience in each church. That's right, churches had the sign language team when no one in the church understood ASL, nor were their any deaf people. Of course there was the off chance that a deaf person would walk in our church and then bingo, we are all of a sudden very relevant to that deaf person.

Of course there could be those 50 other guests who would walk in that were not deaf throughout the service and be entirely confused at what kind of cult-like ritual is going on in here complete with white gloves?

As I investigated this mysterious ministry further, there were more difficulties in operation: The sign language teams were not signing the songs word-for-word! They were interpretively signing the song that told the "gist" of the song complete with over-exaggerated dance moves!

Great, so if a deaf person did come to church, the one ministry that would focus on them would in no way actually tell them what is going on in the song word-for-word, but rather the song would be directed towards them as that they could understand the "gist" of the song.

But I guess this is all part of the plan to have organized dance teams allowed to interpretively dance to a song in church....which is perfectly fine to me.


  1. Haha lol. A friend of mine, licensed in ASL gets pretty upset when a group signs a song word for word because most deaf people sign in ideas or the gist of something and not as we speak things. Also sign language is based on French so the phrasing is somewhat backwards to us. For example if the lyrics in English are "I can feel the presence of the Lord and I'm gonna get my blessing right now" it would roughly translate in sign "the Lord, His presence, feel, can. Take, blessing from Him, right now." However if you are signing English in the St. Louis area you are much more likely to be understood, since there are a lot of deaf schools in the area.

  2. THank you Thank you Thank you! I used to teach deaf education and have even taught ASL as a foreign language. I can't stand this stuff because they over-exaggerate things to where it is no longer a language at all! To me, it is choreographed dance--uh, yeah, charismatic??? Um, yeah. Thank you so much for posting this!

    We currently have a 'sign team' but what it means to us is different. We work as a team (taking turns so we don't tire out) to interpret the services when we have deaf visitors! We also visit our local deaf community!

    Let me clarify for the previous poster though. Signed Exact English is signing word-for-word and is not understandable to most deaf. However, ASL has a different pattern to it, involving signing concepts rather than word-for-word. However, the signs are to take place within a 2ft by 2ft invisible square in front of your chest and face--not all over the place as these goofy sign teams are doing! I actually was interpretting at a conference for some deaf visitors when a 'sign team' took the stage. The deaf visitors stormed out, enraged that they were being mocked! We still can't get them to come back because it was so offensive to them. It's like imitating someone's accent as if they are stupid.

    Thank you! Can you please send this to all the crazy people who make a mockery of this beautiful language and ministry?!?

  3. I completely disagree. I use sign language to teach my son how to communicate because he can't talk and this is a way for him to communicate. I love sign language for this very reason. But I also teach a dramatic sign team to which I feel the power of the Lord minister through as they use dramatic sign. You're right this isn't something that a deaf person will really understand but just like the rest of the congregation they will feel the anointing come through the group/person doing it. It's not an act to make fun of them by any means. We take it very seriously as a ministry and have seen it touch people.