Social Inclusion of Deaf with Hearing Congregants within a Ministerial Setting Comment by Stumme, Clifford James (College Applied Studies & Acad Succ)



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Social Inclusion of Deaf with Hearing Congregants within a Ministerial Setting Comment by Stumme, Clifford James (College Applied Studies & Acad Succ): As you review this sample student paper, please keep in mind that there are some flaws in this paper (as with any piece of writing). However, it is one of the best INDS 400 research proposals received to date, so it is an excellent reference point.

Sample Student

Liberty University

Language (ASL) and Religion




Culture can influence how people interact and the level of inclusion of different cultures in a particular setting. While numerous studies have been conducted examining deaf studies and deaf culture, there is a curious lack of research that has specifically considered the level of inclusion of deaf people in evangelical hearing churches. This research proposal includes an interdisciplinary including a literature review that examines a handful of studies on interactions among deaf and hearing populations to consider challenges of hearing and deaf integration. Examining these diverse perspectives, including Catholic ministry, disability ministry and deaf culture, provides a fresh interdisciplinary perspective to approach the challenges of deaf inclusion in ministerial settings. It was found through this literature review that a gap in scholarly research exists in this area. As further research would be necessary to address this gap, the goal of this research proposal is to conduct a qualitative study for further research by petitioning deaf perspective through online interviews utilizing the social media platform of Facebook. Although a low budget would be necessary, the implications of this research would provide a platform to open community conversation to address challenges and provide ideas on integration of deaf and hearing congregants in evangelical hearing churches. Examining deaf perspectives may provide additional information for fellowship, growth and exposure to the Gospel for deaf congregants in these settings. The purpose of this qualitative study on social inclusion of deaf people is to discover experiences, perspective and ideas of deaf visitors and attendees in an evangelical hearing church in a northeastern state of the United States in order to explore issues, raise awareness and improve practices within the church for inclusion of the local deaf population.

Keywords: deaf studies, ministry, church,

Social Inclusion of Deaf with Hearing Congregants within a Ministerial Setting

In an age when minority groups are finding much societal integration, social integration and inclusion of deaf and hearing congregants within the context of evangelical ministerial settings creates a unique challenge for ministry leadership who seek to provide opportunities for inclusion of deaf with hearing congregants for fellowship and spiritual growth in local communities. The purpose of this study in examining existing research from diverse perspectives through an interdisciplinary approach was to identify the gap in scholarship regarding deaf inclusion in evangelical hearing churches. A handful of studies have examined interactions among deaf and hearing populations from a number of perspectives, which prove beneficial when examining the subject through Deaf Studies and Ministry lenses. The goal of this research is to propose further study in order to address the gap in research through opening the community conversation to deaf perspective. In consideration of the diverse perspectives examined, including mainstreamed deaf and hearing college students, deaf inclusion in Catholic ministry and ministry to teens with disabilities, an opportunity to approach the subject from an interdisciplinary vantage point to address this gap in scholarship exists and reveals the need for further study regarding inclusion of deaf in ministerial settings in evangelical hearing churches and initiate a community conversation.

Literature Review

Culturally deaf people in the United States define themselves by their shared experiences and language as a cultural and linguistic minority group. However, many in the hearing community perceive people who are deaf as disabled and see what they cannot do over what they can do in spite of not having the ability to hear. These differing perspectives impact inclusion of deaf people in ministerial settings. Portolano (2015) examined one such setting in a study conducted on the history of deaf Catholics from 1949 to 1977, noting the struggle for inclusion in parish life. This study found a robust field of scholarship in America in deaf studies while noting there still exists a curious lack of studies on the experience of deaf Catholics in the United States and few studies acknowledging deaf Catholics as a minority group (Portolano, 2015). The study found differing perspectives in the deaf Catholic community where some saw deafness as a disability that needed intervention and others viewed it as a cultural and linguistic minority group, noting that while some progress has been made, isolation and inequality among the hearing continued to present closed doors for the deaf (Portolano, 2015). Recognizing deafness as a cultural and linguistic minority while actively seeking that deaf perspective be added to the conversation may provide insight toward ministerial inclusion and integration in hearing congregations for this people group.

Another interdisciplinary perspective to be considered is one of ministry with people with disabilities. While deaf people do not view themselves as disabled, insight can be gained in reviewing research conducted around this type of ministry. Jacober (2007) studied experiences of families of teens with disabilities with church ministries with the purpose of raising awareness and interest in ministry for this group. In this study, Jacober (2007) administered interviews across nine states between 2004 and 2006 with the parent or parents of 17 families with an adolescent with a disability. The results indicated common themes including feeling ignored, being overlooked and feeling that people made no attempt to engage the persons with disabilities (Jacober, 2007). While the need for integration is evident for people with disabilities, including and raising awareness of deaf perspective through interviews can bring a fresh perspective in considering inclusion of the deaf in ministerial settings.

Another perspective considered in the nature of deaf and hearing interaction is found in research concerning deaf and hearing student populations mainstreamed together in colleges. One such study by Foster and DeCaro (1991) examined social interaction levels and communication barriers between deaf and hearing students living on mainstreamed dorm floors at the Rochester Institute of Technology in which the goal was to promote interaction between deaf and hearing college students. They found that deaf students were more likely than hearing students to focus on the opportunity of interacting with their hearing counterparts in choosing to live in the mainstreamed setting, whereas the hearing students focused on the dorm’s physical benefits for determining the choice (Foster and DeCaro, 1991).

Through interviews with students, they also found that students noted that an attempt to communicate drew people together and intentional persistent attempts resulted in mutual respect (Foster and DeCaro, 1991). They found that hearing student perceptions on deafness were seldom based on experience with deaf people and many had no experience with deaf people, while deaf students brought varied experience with the hearing world with them (Foster and DeCaro, 1991). They found that fear was a common factor in which primarily hearing students had a fear of the unfamiliar and unpredictable nature of relating to deaf students (Foster and DeCaro, 1991). Considering this perspective and the similar goal of promoting interaction between deaf and hearing in evangelical church settings can shed light on perceptions of deaf and hearing church congregants.

Additionally, deaf students noted the snobbery of the hearing students and noted their unfriendliness and refusal to strive for communication (Foster and DeCaro, 1991). Both populations experienced embarrassment and discomfort; however Foster and DeCaro (1991) found that most concluded that deaf and hearing could live side by side without much difficulty. Deaf students also noted that respect from the deaf were given to the hearing for attempts to learn sign language and Deaf culture (Foster and DeCaro, 1991). Another study by Miller (2010) examined the epistemological perspectives of deaf and hearing perspectives in their understanding of deaf people, their language of ASL, their culture and views of the hearing world’s treatment of deaf people. Examining how deaf and hearing interact and perceive one another contributes fresh perspective to deaf inclusion in the ministerial setting of the hearing church and demonstrates the need for further research in the deaf perspective in these settings.

Another study by Carter, Bumble, Griffin and Curcio (2017) was conducted to investigate how congregation members perceived how to foster a sense of inclusion and support among people in the congregation who had teenagers with disabilities. In this study, Carter et al (2017) used “communication conversation” events in two locations in a southeastern state in the United States, analyzing over 1,000 ideas generated by 175 participants. They found that community dialogue revealed recommendations including family supports, hospitality initiatives, awareness efforts and intentional reflection and teaming within ministerial leadership as pertaining to presenting needs (Carter et all, 2017). They also found congregants had a number of ideas for supporting the involvement of teenagers with disabilities including worship services, religious education, small groups and other inclusive congregational activities (Carter et all, 2017). These findings from community conversations regarding populations of people with disabilities highlight possibilities for community dialogue including deaf perspective regarding deaf integration and inclusion in ministerial settings of hearing churches.

The purpose of this literature review was to consider diverse perspectives including mainstreamed deaf and hearing college students, deaf inclusion in Catholic ministry and ministry to teens with disabilities with an interdisciplinary approach. In studying these varied perspectives, it becomes significant to note the gap in scholarship pertaining to the study of inclusion and integration of deaf people in ministerial settings in evangelical hearing churches. Much scholarship exists in the area of deaf studies including deaf culture and mainstreaming deaf in hearing educational settings, but there remains a lack of interdisciplinary perspective of the topic of inclusion and integration of the deaf in the evangelical ministry setting. While scholarship mentions ministry with teens with disabilities and Catholic ministry with the deaf, it is curiously silent regarding this issue.


Twenty deaf people who have visited and/or attended an evangelical church of 1,000 congregants in the northeastern United States will be interviewed utilizing a specific list of questions through a private Facebook platform (Jacober, 2007). Questions regarding how to foster a sense of inclusion and support, recommendations for awareness efforts and ideas for involvement will be asked (Carter et all, 2017). Individual deaf people who have visited or attended the church will be sent a private Facebook invitation to participate and offered an incentive gift certificate to a local restaurant in order to increase response rate. Permission from the individual interviewees will be attained. The online platform was chosen for the comfort of the interviewees to use their first language ASL for responses as many deaf people regularly use Facebook to discuss issues and are familiar and comfortable with this platform. As ASL is a visual language and facial expressions and gestures are important, the video recording will capture the content for later viewing with the added benefit of alleviating the distraction of the interviewer’s presence.

Each of the recorded interview responses will subsequently be interpreted by an ASL interpreter and transcribed for the researcher for further study. If there is a participant response to a particular question that is different from the responses of other participants, a follow-up in-person interview will be requested of that participant to allow an opportunity for more understanding of the response. An ASL interpreter would be present for follow-up face-to-face interviews. The resulting qualitative data from all interview responses and follow-up interviews will be analyzed for patterns and trends. Although in a small sample of twenty participants, drawing of statistical conclusions will not be possible, a coding process will be used to measure common responses and patterns. This coding will thus be used to create a presentation table to display common responses for analysis by the researcher and presentation to churches.


Research in the local perspectives and ideas from a deaf cultural perspective is important to study because findings will impact deaf inclusion in the local evangelical church setting. The purpose of this qualitative study in a northeastern state in the United States is to discover the experiences of the deaf in a hearing church setting and opportunities for their integration within the church (Jacober, 2007). The main objective hoped to be accomplished in this study is to determine specific ideas from a deaf cultural perspective regarding deaf inclusion in the hearing evangelical church setting, bringing more understanding to the hearing community regarding deaf culture and recognizing deaf input into the conversation of integration. This study aims to address the difference in the deaf cultural perspective with the goal of integrating deaf congregants in the hearing ministerial setting and striving toward social inclusion, while discovering the value deaf people add to the community of believers (Kyle, 1988). By giving the deaf a voice in the conversation, the local deaf have the opportunity to become part of the community of believers and contribute a unique value to that community (Kyle, 1988). The goal is to foster meaningful input of deaf perspective that leads to inclusion of deaf congregants in the evangelical hearing church setting (Kyle, 1988). Seeking to add cultural deaf perspective to the conversation can promote deaf-hearing integration and inclusion with the goal of uncovering the value and unique contributions deaf individuals have to add to the community of believers (Kyle, 1988).

Findings will be provided to the church leadership teams of northeastern churches in the United States that have attempted to provide sign language interpreters for deaf congregants. Results of analysis of interviews will be presented to church leadership teams with the intention to understand the perspective of the deaf community and to help identify opportunities and ideas for inclusion. This study seeks to explore issues and raise awareness to improve practices within the church for inclusion of the deaf population in order to provide opportunities for fellowship, growth and access to the Gospel (Jacober, 2007). While much scholarship exists regarding deaf studies and deaf culture, there is a notable lack of research regarding deaf culture from an evangelical ministerial perspective. As church leadership teams in northeastern churches seek to include and minister to deaf congregants, ample opportunity exists to reach and foster inclusion of this marginalized minority group in local evangelical Christian ministries.


Examining diverse perspectives in Deaf Studies and Ministry in the literature review revealed a gap in scholarship regarding the social inclusion of deaf people in evangelical church settings and presented an opportunity to approach the subject from an interdisciplinary vantage point while revealing a need for further study. Cultural deaf perspective in the literature review revealed varied perspectives of the definition of deaf culture as some view deafness as a disability and some view it as a cultural and linguistic minority. Differing perspectives of deaf and hearing congregants of evangelical hearing churches presents an opportunity for more understanding through community conversation that will foster social inclusion and integration of deaf congregants. The goal of this research proposal is to add deaf perspective, experiences and ideas to the community conversation to raise awareness and fresh perspective. Determining specific ideas from a deaf cultural perspective regarding deaf inclusion in the hearing evangelical church setting can bring more understanding to the hearing community while including deaf contribution in the community conversation. Understanding deaf cultural perspective on issues of inclusion in local churches will allow leadership of hearing churches to more readily assess the convergence of deaf and hearing congregants and more successfully approach challenges associated with including this minority group in ministerial settings.



An Ecological Model of Social Interaction between Deaf and Hearing Students within a Postsecondary Educational Setting. (1991). Disability, Handicap & Society6(3), 181-201.

Antia, S. D., & Kreimeyer, K. H. (1996). Social Interaction and Acceptance of Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Children and Their Peers: A Comparison of Social-Skills and Familiarity-Based Interventions. Volta Review98(4), 157-80.

Carter, E., Bumble, J., Griffin, B., & Curcio, M. (2017). Community Conversations on Faith and Disability: Identifying New Practices, Postures, and Partners for Congregations. Pastoral Psychology66(5), 575-594.

Jacober, A. E. (2007). Ostensibly Welcome: Exploratory Research on the Youth Ministry Experiences of Families of Teenagers with Disabilities. Journal Of Youth Ministry6(1), 67-92.

Kersting, S. A. (1997). Balancing Between Deaf and Hearing Worlds: Reflections of Mainstreamed College Students on Relationships and Social Interaction. Journal Of Deaf Studies & Deaf Education2(4), 252-263.

Kyle, J. G., & Pullen, G. (1988). Cultures in Contact: deaf and hearing people. Disability, Handicap & Society3(1), 49-61.

Miller, M. S. (2010). Epistemology and People Who Are Deaf: Deaf Worldviews, Views of the Deaf World, or My Parents Are Hearing. American Annals Of The Deaf154(5), 479-485.

Portolano, M. (2015). “Shun not the struggle”: The Language and Culture of Deaf Catholics in the U.S., 1949-1977. U.S. Catholic Historian33(3), 99-124.

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