by Rich Birch: Performing funerals is a reality of being the pastor of a church of any size and style. Even if your church is primarily filled with young people, from time to time you will be called upon by families to perform a funeral.
These moments, while incredibly touching, can feel somewhat routine for pastors who perform funeral services on a regular basis. For families, a funeral may be one of the most memorable days of their lives as they say goodbye to a loved one, reconcile with that person’s life, or reflect on their own mortality, whereas pastors may view a funeral as something scheduled on a Tuesday afternoon between everything else they’re doing ministry wise.
Chances are you didn’t have much conversation during your seminary training about how to guide a family through a funeral. The topic of funerals never came up the entire time I was training for ministry. This is somewhat disorienting when you consider that they will be an inevitable part of most pastors’ and ministry leaders’ lives at some point, so I want to share seven things they didn’t teach you in seminary about funerals.
Ask lots of questions in order to understand the culture.
Funerals are one area where you need to lead with questions.
Talk to the family about what it is that they’re looking for. Talk to the funeral directors about local customs or things you should be aware of in that community. Talk with other local pastors about what they’ve learned about the regional etiquette around funerals. Be inquisitive in your preparation.
If you’re wondering about anything regarding funerals, you’ll need to reach out and ask those questions.