1. Meet with the Family.
2. Distill to one best trait/quality.
3. Include Psychological cues.
I know that I just told you to avoid cookie-cutter funerals where you can interchange names with very little substantive difference, and I stand by that; however, there are certain aspects of a funeral/memorial service that make it feel like a funeral service. When you attend a wedding, 1 Corinthians 13, the unity candle, “Dearly Beloved”, and a white dress are some of those iconic aspects that ring true for a wedding. These help the people involved in the wedding to be able to believe that they are now married, that a substantive change has occurred in their lives. The same thing is true for a funeral.
Including aspects that are part of the “branding” of a funeral service will psychologically help the family to move through the stages of grief. This is a balancing act between a cookie-cutter funeral and a service that is emotionally confusing. The weaving together of the uniqueness of the person with the traditional aspects of a funeral will create the right balance of psychological truths that communicates that their loved one has truly died.
Here is my list that I always try to include in the service:
1. Obituary reading.
I generally begin the service with this as the family has personally chosen these words to describe their loved one. 2 notes – A) make sure you know how to pronounce all the names prior to reading them, and B) leave off the end of the obituary where they are informing the public where the service will be.
2. Psalm 23.
My Mother once sagely informed me that cliches only become cliches because they are true. This passage of Scripture is used so heavily for funerals because it works so well. Include it, but don’t use it as the primary text for your message (usually, make an exception only when it best fits the uniqueness of the person as well).
3. Amazing Grace.
One of those songs that people who have only a passing knowledge of the Church recognize and relate with. Like the 23rd Psalm, it works great. The tone of the song, the meaning of the song and especially the triumphant final verse all put the right sense into the service. If performing a graveside, I will generally save this song until then. There is a beautiful, haunting quality to it being sung a capella in a cemetery.
4. The LORD’s Prayer.
This is one of the only times that I use the KJV. It is a poetic rendering of the Greek, and due to its regular use in most churches, it has a powerful grounding influence for the Christians in attendance. It also adds a dynamic of sharing together as both the pastor and the congregation pray together.
Are there any “old faithfuls” that you use?