Ministry Inside.139

funeralOn Thursdays, I generally write a post for church leaders.  Much of the time, however, this is applicable to Christians in general.

I have done many funerals.  These funerals have been for infants, older people, and all ages in between.   I done funerals for those who died after a slow, lingering illness. I have done funerals for those who died suddenly in an automobile crash.

Years ago, I taught an undergraduate class called Christian Ministry.  As a part of the class, students would tour a funeral home.  A funeral home director would explain everything that would happen with a family in the home.  Students would see the casket selection room, the preparation room, and the chapel.  In the chapel the director would give some suggestions regarding funerals.

The following are eight suggestions I want to make regarding funerals.

Maybe you will find one of these helpful.

1.  If at all possible, visit with the family prior to the funeral.  This is an important time (regardless of how well you know the person) that allows the family the opportunity to tell the story of their loved one.

2.  If you are new to the area, ask the funeral home director if there might be any special customs related to funerals that you need to be aware of.

3.  Get to the funeral early.  Far better to get there with twenty minutes to spare than to show up at the last minute and risk a blunder in the funeral.

4.  Know that a short message is better – far better – than long.

5.  Make sure to check the pronunciation of family members names before the funeral begins.  The family may not remember much of what you said in the message. Certain family members will remember that you butchered their name.

6.  Beware of telling stories about the deceased that are crude, embarrassing, or might in some way create an awkward moment for family members.  I was at a funeral once where a few friends were asked to make remarks about the deceased. One friend began his remarks by saying “I probably shouldn’t tell this but I’m going to anyway.”  I saw several people cringe with embarrassment as he began telling his story.  Is such a story really worth this?

7.  Beware of making the deceased sound better than she really was.  For example, if she was a constant complainer and irritant to people, don’t describe her as a real encourager.  I went to a funeral a few years ago with several distant family members of the deceased.  After the funeral, a family member said regarding the minister’s remarks, “Was that our brother the preacher was talking about?  That’s not the brother I knew!”

8.  If the person was a Christian, say something about the cross of Christ and his resurrection.  I have been amazed at how often in funerals for Christian people, the resurrection is never even mentioned.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Ministry Inside.139

  1. As clergy, please don’t just express your condolences to the children of the deceased. I know this tends to be the case far too often. The grandchildren may be taking the death harder since that night have been the only person on the planet who actually loved them and defended them. Yes, this might be hard for some to comprehend, but it can be the case. You will never know if it actually was the case because most people will put on a brave face at funerals and most families will sit together and act like everything is ok. Even though the deceased may no longer be suffering, the real mourners may be trying to figure out their life without their relative who is now horizontal.

    Also, please don’t just preach a standard Sunday sermon as was done in the past. This is a time to officiate like clergy instead of just preaching. If you are really new to it, ask another experienced minister if you can attend the next funeral he or she conducts and sit on the back row and get some ideas.