1. Meet With the Family.
2. Distill to One Best Trait/Quality.
3. Include Phsychological Cues.
4. Lead People to Christ/Hope.
5. Select a Text That Ties Best Trait to Christ and Eternal Life.
6. Teach About the New Heaven and New Earth.
7. Know the Basics.
As with any activity, there are a lot of aspects that are assumed and not even discussed by those who do them frequently. A finish carpenter knows to stop hitting the finish nail prior to seating it fully so as to not mar the trim – he seats it with a nail set. It seems obvious to those who put trim up all the time – but not so obvious to the uninitiated.
Here are some basics that most attending funerals have never reallly thought about:
1. The Pastor should precede the casket.
This is an act of respect of the deceased, a visible direction for the pall bearers and a spiritual analogy of Christ leading us into New Life as the first born. The Pastor should stand to one side of the hearse as the casket is being placed in, and should precede the casket to the burial site as well.
2. The body is laid to rest facing the East – the direction from which Christ will return.
This is becoming less common among cemeteries, as they are more concerned about efficiency of placement, and in all honesty as funerals/committals haven’t mentioned this truth – most people are completely unaware of the significance. If the alignment is correct, I encourage you to mention it as a part of the committal.
3. The Pastor frequently rides with the Funeral Home Director to the graveside (though you can choose to drive yourself).
This is not a need to, but a personal choice. If you need to leave quickly following the committal…drive. In many ways, this is a continuation of #1, the Pastor precedes the casket, and leads the procession to the graveside.
4. Arrive early.
This is true of all of life, but is also true of a funeral. No grieving family wants to have to worry about whether or not you are going to show up on time. Arriving early also gives you plenty of opportunity to make final arrangements with the funeral home director re: the order of service.
5. Type up an order of worship, and have copies available for the Funeral Home Director.
If you have done #4, this is an excellent opportunity to make sure there are no last minute changes to said order. I recommend getting the order of service to the director at the visitation or at least one hour prior to service.
This is a charge that most funeral homes include in their price, and write a check to the pastor for their services. I have no problem with this being done, however personally I have chosen to not be paid for these services, and have made that known to our funeral home directors. Several reasons:
A) I am on salary. I am therefore paid already to be a pastor. This is a pastoral function.
B) The family 9 times out of 10 is not prepared financially for a funeral, this gives you an opportunity to be the one that truly ministers to them in their time of need as a free gift.
C) I want them in my debt. Let me explain – If I go to a store and purchase a loaf of bread, I am free to enjoy the bread with no feelings of being blessed by the grocery store. I want the family to feel blessed, not compensated. This will hopefully help them to reflect on why Christ’s church would give so freely.
7. Wear professional attire.
Attire should match the activity. I wear my Muck Boots when working in the garden, swimming trunks when relaxing at the lake, and a suit and tie when performing funerals and weddings. Remember, you are not the point. You do not want people thinking about what you are wearing, but about what you are saying to them about life, death, Christ and eternity.
8. Know whether or not there will be others officiating at the graveside, communicate the order early – quite often through the funeral home director.
If the deceased was a member of the Masons, the Military or some other group, there will quite often be additional elements. Ask ahead of time.