5 fears that stop people from signing worship

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5 fears that stop people from signing worship

There is something so beautiful about being totally abandoned while worshiping Jesus. I see it in worship leaders like Jenn Johnson of Bethel Music and hear it in the singing voices of children mingled with their parents during Sunday worship services. It’s enough to bring me to tears of joy. And when you add in the Lord’s loving response to our praise, it’s so precious it melts my heart.

I experience this encounter and freedom every time I worship Him in sign language. I believe it is the Holy Spirit who inspires us into this new bold movement of praise and worship, drawing our hands and our hearts upward.

But even for me who grew up using sign language, it was hard to push past the fear and judgements that came up in my mind. I’ve often felt self conscious or unsure when I felt the Holy Spirit inviting me to add sign language to my singing voice at church.

As I explored what was keeping me and others back, I discovered 5 reasons that held back my worship in sign language. Now that I’m on the other side of them, I want to help you get past them too!

1. I don’t know the signs and am afraid of signing the wrong thing

This is a reasonable fear, and yet one that is easy to begin dismantling. One great thing about worshiping in Sign is that you can start on your own. With the abundance of free resources online, and sign language worship videos on youTube you can probably find multiple versions of a song you love. It does take time, and research.

However, you definitely want to make sure your source is good. Slight modifications to signs can turn a word into a offensive sign. One example is the sign for power, which can be signed several ways but was unfortunately transformed into a word that should not be associated with Jesus by a youth group ministry in a video on youTube.

2. I am confused about if I should sign ASL (American Sign Language) or word for word (PSE/Signed English).

This totally depends on who you’re signing for and your level of sign language. If you are getting started with learning or teaching sign language worship (to all my youth group leaders out there) you can feel free to sign word for word – but not every word, especially if you are learning to sign unto the Lord and not an audience.

If you are learning to be able to translate or sign the song for a deaf person then first you should ask them what they prefer. Depending on the person they may want to see ASL or Signed English. The choice should be theirs, so ask them. It could honestly go either way!

My mom has been deaf since birth and prefers sign language worship that closely matches the lyrics. I showed her videos on my Worship In Sign youTube channel (which are mostly signed english) and videos from other ministries who sign mostly ASL. She preferred signed english because they matched the closed captions, and it was confusing for her to reconcile the signed concepts and the lyrics.

A fun story…I used to sign my church’s worship services which was shown live on the internet. My mom began to watch from home and surprised me with her rendition of “Break Every Chain’s – Power in the name of Jesus”. #Priceless

3. I can’t keep up with all the words or I’m confused about how to sign the concepts in the song

I’ve run into this problem many times, especially with quick paced choruses and poetic songs which talk about concepts that are difficult to understand even for the hearing person. Here’s how I would tackle each of these challenges.
For songs with quick choruses:

  1. Learn the song and practice your signs so that you become more fluid
  2. Try to discover ways to group your signs to communicate with less words.

The worship song “Taste and see that the Lord is good” is a great song to master this challenge.

For songs with concepts the best advice I can give is:

  1. Ask the Lord for revelation on the song
  2. Meditate on the concepts and decide what they mean to you
  3. Write that down and learn the signs to communicate them
  4. Begin to blend the lyrics with the signs you chose to communicate the concepts
  5. Listen to the song over, and over signing your choices until they flow well with the song

Some examples that have challenged me are: I still drip with the blood of the Lamb, I love the fragrance of Your name, I’m thirsty but my soul can’t be quenched, Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over head. * After praying to the Lord, I got inspiration about how to tackle this lyric from Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music’s beautiful worship song “In Over My Head”. You can find it on my Worship in Sign youTube channel here.

4. Is it okay to sign when there’s no deaf people at my church?

Absolutely, yes! This is one that I had to challenge myself with because the Lord gave me the inspiration to sign worship not only to make the songs accessible to the deaf but to worship Him. It was an invitation for my heart to enter into boldness and obedience and through that door He brought great joy and encounter to my life. So don’t worry if there’s no deaf people. You go right on learning to worship in sign. Perhaps He is preparing the soil of your life and your church to be a place where the deaf will come in the future. If you step out now, you’ll be better prepared then.

5. I’m shy and don’t want to be a distraction.

I understand this is a big challenge for people, even myself. The best advice I can give is focus on Jesus. Worship is not about the people around you, although you don’t want to draw focus to yourself. That being said, there is great freedom in worship and in the example of David, worship an audience of One. Each of us has a personal style of worship.It’s the blending of them all that makes corporate worship so powerfully beautiful.

So just get started!!! If you feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to sign that’s all the permission you need. Be bold and give the King what He wants, which is your heart. I promise you that I have heard many testimonies of people being blessed by watching others worship in sign at church. I am sure that as you learn and grow your worship will bless those around you too. 🙂

Have you been inspired to worship in sign? If so, please share your story in the comments below so we can all be encouraged together!

Want to learn how to worship in sign? Start here with my free tutorial!

Or get on the waitlist for my upcoming Worship In Sign Class.

xoxo Sara Jane


3 thoughts on “5 fears that stop people from signing worship

  1. Hello Sara!
    I am beyond excited about the upcoming workshop!!! You precious one, are an answer to my prayers.
    Signing is truly a way for me to express myself in worship to our Savior who is worthy of all our praise. He has brought me out of darkness into the light.
    I am a hearing impaired woman of God, who desires nothing more then to honor the King of kings and Lords of lords.
    You have made that dream possible!!!
    I did the free E course and am excited to say, I now have learned 19 signs to worship.
    I have tried signing classes in the past and have found it difficult to follow along due to hearing and pace at which the class went.

    I am so looking forward to the upcoming workshop and my journey in praising my Savior through signing to worship.

    You are a “BIG” blessing!
    Thank you for giving of yourself and allowing the love of Christ shine in and through you.
    Christ my all,

  2. I sent this by email, but felt led to post and encourage others,as well.

    Hello Sara,
    I look forward to connecting with you in the near future. There is a lot going on in our lives at this time.

    I have started doing praise and worship with the kids at church, THE WELL- LANDRUM
    My ministry name is ASL WORSHIP (For Action Speaks Louder and American Sign Language)

    I started this 15 years ago, at a former church. Three churches later, I realize that God has a timing and not everyone can see your vision but when God gives you a vision, he will provide. (The other Churches had a different vision and there came a point in time, that staying meant division or giving up my Ministry.)
    I would love to send you some of our videos when we get to that point … in God’s timing.

    I love your energy and your excitement about what you do. It means a lot to me to have these awesome videos available. When I find someone else with the same passion for this ministry that I have, my heart leaps inside of me and I know that it’s just another step in the path where God’s reaffirming my vision.

    My heart is that if the kids incorporate sign language into their music, we would be able to connect hearing and deaf families together.

    Also that they would remember it in their time of need, and the actions with the lyrics helps them to remember scriptural truth when they have difficulties in their life. I grew up in a Baptist Church where you were not allowed to express yourself, so this is a way for me to find my praise and worship, as well.

    I took sign language classes at 2 different churches. My teachers were 2 deaf men, a lady who grew up with deaf friend, and a teacher at the South Carolina deaf and Blind School.

    But my communication skills are still not there.

    Thank you for the time you have dedicated to this exciting ministry.

    Love you, sister,


  3. Hope it helps, my teacher used to say if you don’t know I Sign feel what it means and show that, it also shows that you are orshiping and not just interpreting as some do.

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