Effective Funeral Preparation

Title: Effective Funeral Preparation
Category: Pastoral Issues
Subject: Funeral

Effective Funeral Preparation

I. Preparation of Funeral Information

As the minister prepares for a funeral service, there are certain areas of interest that he should explore in the life of the deceased. This information can help the minister speak more effectively, comfort more successfully and inspire more completely than if he fails to know these facts.

Date of Birth:

Place of Birth:

Date of Death:

Place of Death:

Cause of Death:

Illness History:

People Present at Death:




Great Grandchildren:


Employment History:


Military History:

Organizational Membership:

Salvation History:

Church Membership:

Church Involvement:

Favorite Scripture Verse(s):

Favorite Christian Hymn or Song:

Awards Won: (athletic, civic, church, etc.)

Character: (Acts of kindness, honesty, work ethic, financial issues [tithing, etc.], and other info)

Personal Experience with Deceased: (What was your personal experience with this person, if any.)

II. Gathering Funeral Information

(An idea for Member Care Administrator in larger churches is included here also)

When talking to the family prior to the funeral, don’t hesitate to take along a pad with the information sheet above printed on it. Go through it and explain that you want the service to be Christ-honoring and comfort providing. Ask specifically if they recall any warm, funny things about the deceased. Of course, the minister will have to use discretion in using what is shared by the family. If you pastor a church with a pastoral care minister on staff, and he or she does most of the information gathering, use a form like the one above to help that staff member provide you with pertinent information. In my ministry at First Baptist Church, Lilburn, I had a lady on staff that usually did most of the fact gathering. Susan Rumble would gather with the family and then share all the information with me. After the funeral, family members would mention that they were amazed at how personal the funeral was even though our church was large and I could not have possibly known the deceased that well. Neither Susan, whose title was Member Care Administrator, or I, would ever mention the process we followed. We would simply share that we were thankful that God ministered to them and that we did the best we could to honor his or her life. Also, I found that a woman was excellent as a Member Care Administrator. Susan was not licensed or ordained. She was simply an administrator and had no other job than to visit the sick, hospitals, nursing homes and especially the terminally ill. She kept copious notes and shared them with me once a week. I had a computer file of every person she visited, with notes on their conditions. If I got a call about a person, I could turn to my computer while on the phone, look up that name and I had full knowledge of the situation before my eyes while talking. It made for great ministry during illness and a sweet ministry at the time of death. Also, a woman served well in this capacity because most of our older, ailing members were women. Almost 90% of our oldest members, especially in nursing homes were women and they appreciated a woman visiting with them. They could relate well and sometimes discuss their unique situations better with a woman. If you are considering someone for this type of care ministry, a woman is an excellent choice. I was, and I am, a conservative Southern Baptist minister. My church was, likewise, conservative in theology and polity. But, we had absolutely no problem with this ministry. I praise the Lord for Susan Rumble and her care of our church members during that 12 year ministry. She is still there, long after my departure, touching lives for the Lord and assisting her new pastor with this ministry. One thing that is important in funeral preparation is the suggestions the minister can give the family regarding the length of the service. Many families think of all the people they would like to have help in the service but do not consider how long that is going to make the service. I always suggested that a special place be made for seating ministers and others who meant much to the deceased and that I or someone in the service be allowed to simply mention them rather than asking each of them to say something.

Generally speaking, two ministers, or three at most, should be part of a funeral service. Scripture reading and prayer can be offered by one or two ministers, and the main speaker should bring the message. Letting the family know this takes pressure off of them to feel an obligation to offer ministers and friends a chance to speak. I have personally been in funeral services that take over an hour, and I could see the family becoming uncomfortable with the length of the service. Most families would be pleased with a service of 35 to 45 minutes at most. Interestingly, most of the families whose relative had been the consistently faithful in God’s service were the most interested in a shorter service. They would often say, "You don't have to take too long because his (or her) life has spoken volumes that cannot be rehearsed in a funeral service."

III. Outline of Funeral Service Funerals

In almost every case, be brief. Christ should be exalted, the family comforted and the deceased honored (in accordance with his or her life history).

Do not be afraid to use one or two quips or stories that are humorous about the deceased. When family members recall the funny things that the person did or that happened to the deceased, their hearts are lightened and their tears become telescopes to the past.

Below is a simple outline of a funeral service with some comments as examples of what might be said.

Funeral For Mrs. Jayne Doe (Date)

Organ Prelude Processional Solo "How Great Thou Art" (Favorite Hymn Scripture/Prayer (Minister)

Solo (Additional favorite hymn of deceased or family)

Message (Minister) (If three ministers are used, a third minister can close with an additional prayer at this point. Also, to keep the service shorter, the pastor and/or family can ask that an additional minister can be used for Scripture or prayer at the graveside service.)

Mrs. Jayne Doe was born 86 years ago and was married to Mr. John Doe for 47 years prior to his death. They have 2 daughters, 2 sons, 6 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, almost all of whom are here today to honor her. She also had a sister and brother, both or who are deceased.

Jayne was saved when she was 15 years old at her old home church in North Carolina. It was a revival and she told her dad that she just had to accept Christ. He walked down the aisle during the invitation with her to tell the preacher. She was baptized a few weeks later. She talked about that experience the rest of her life. And, of course, it was the most important decision she ever made.

Today, she has been accepted into the presence of the Lord she accepted all those years ago. I know she would want me to remind everyone here that you need to be sure you have made a commitment to Christ as you Savior and Lord. After all, when this life is over, that is what will matter most!

Jayne loved the Book of Ruth and Psalm 100. She was faithful in her church, taught children for many years in Sunday School and sang in the choir for a number of years. Just think of that special praise choir she is in today. She is singing, "Worthy is the Lamb!"

She played basketball as a young school girl. One day she hurt her eye playing ball. John, her future husband, jumped out of the school window to take her a handkerchief. She loved to tell that for years. John was her hero and she was his beloved.

She lived in a different age. She milked a cow every morning, and did chores around the house. She and her husband were still milking cows for their milk when they first got married. She loved to cook. The children tell me that she enjoyed having their friends over to eat and spend the night. They were always welcome. She made them feel at home.

Now, she is with Jesus, who is making her feel at home! Let me share three thoughts with you from Psalm 100, her favorite chapter in the Bible.

I. She had Praise for Her Shepherd

"Shout for joy…" And, she still has that praise where she is now!

II. She has Provision by Her Shepherd

"Sheep of His pasture…" Her Shepherd led her in life. He was with her in death. He provides for her now.

III. She has a Place with her Shepherd

"…enter His gates…forever.." The Lord promised a place to those who come to Him as the Door.

John 14:1-6. She has, now, a place with Him forever. Those of you who are saved will see her again. She lives now in a world without pain, sickness, sorrow and separation. If you are not saved, you can be. Just turn to the Lord she accepted and He will accept you, forgive you and save you. We will miss her, but we cannot imagine how much you, her family, will miss her. Carry her memory in your hearts and serve her Lord in your lives. We will meet again! Organ Postlude Recessional