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.
8. Committal – Body and Breath. Christ on the Cross.
There are times when technology in a funeral service seems tacky (a fake bugle with a speaker in it that plays Taps so the honor guard doesn’t actually have to know how to play comes to mind), however, there are a couple ways in which technology can enrich the service in deeply meaningful ways:
A song has a way of cutting through the intellect and touching the emotions like few other things can. Add to that the aspect of a favorite song of the deceased – and you have a really effective moment! This used to mean someone tearfully trying to recreate a professional’s song to the accompaniment of a piano – which was the wrong instrumentation for said song. The song was generally done poorly, but everyone pretended it was beautiful because that’s what you do. Then came the burned CD by the family of the three songs they wanted played at the service – usually rushed – and therefore untried (i.e., it might not even play on your cd system) and out of order; after all they have a lot on their minds.
YouTube.com has revolutionized this part of the service for me. Simply find the artist’s official copy and play it through the sound system of your church – you can even show the music video, if appropirate, or use a slideshow of the deceased’s pictures at the same time for greater impact. This way you can also preview the song (even at the family meeting if possible) for best placement in the service.
One of the perennial responsibilities of a grieving family is to assemble their favorite pictures of the deceased, and pin them onto upholstered Memory boards for the visitation, viewing and funeral service. This of course requires a lot of time and ends up damaging some of their favorite pictures of their loved one. If the service is at the funeral home, this is still preferable to one small laptop running a slideshow (which worsens the backlog of people trying to look at the pictures due to the screen size).
A better option is a slideshow of pictures (approximately chronological) which can play on a loop in the sanctuary prior to the service, after the service and/or as a special part of the service (see A). I like to put appropriate Scripture verses after every 6-10 slides in the slideshow. Make sure that the fade rate is at an even pace that gives people the opportunity to really see the picture, but doesn’t slow the whole thing down to a crawl. 5-8 seconds seems to work well for each picture. The added benefits are that you aren’t damaging the pictures with pushpins, it’s projected up on a big screen that everyone can see at the same time and digital pictures don’t have to printed off in order to be used.
C) Cell phones.
The only thing tackier than having to begin a funeral service by reminding everyone to put their phone on silent or vibrate, is to have someone’s cell phone go off in the middle of the service. It rarely fails that the one person with the most upbeat and joy-filled ringtone receives a call during the service…then can’t dig it out of their purse/pants pocket quickly enough, and even worse – they answer it and try to whisper that they can’t talk right now!! The least tacky way to handle it seems to be to have the funeral director remind everyone that the service will be starting shortly, and to please turn off their cell phones. This leaves the minister free to focus on ministering.
P.S. make sure that you never leave YOUR cell phone on 🙂