For the uninitiated, planning a funeral brings much anxiety. You deeply desire to lead and shepherd the family, but you may not know what to do or the manner in which to conduct yourself.
These are the kinds of things you learn through experience. Here is what I learned in my experience walking with a family through a death last week.
1. The details can wait. Some families want to rush into making arrangements before their loved one has passed away. Instead, encourage the family to make the most of the time they have left with their loved one. The details for the funeral can come together plenty fast after the person has passed away.
In one way, making plans smacks of facing reality. But I fear that it actually functions as an escape from watching someone dear die.
2. Patience. People do not grieve efficiently. When the time comes to plan the funeral, it may not be planned quickly, as the family sorts through the collision of emotions and business details.
This results, at times, with awkwardness, unhelpful questions, and irritability in those who are grieving.
Rather than trying to push things along, wait for the situation to pass, or answer the questions the best you can. Then lead to the next step in the process.
3. Liturgy exists for a reason. While I’ve participated in funerals before, this was the first one I planned from beginning to end. What passages should you read? What do you say at the graveside?
You don’t want to get this stuff off some wacko’s funeral-preacher-for-hire website.
The PCA Book of Church Order was quite helpful in choosing Scripture passages and formulating the graveside service.
4. Be personal. You don’t want your liturgy to distance you from the people you are serving. Personalize what you say as much as possible. Do this by referencing something someone shared in a remembrance, or introducing components of the service by recollecting something about the person who has passed away.
5. Speak up when conducting the funeral. I learned this lesson the hard way. We hadn’t done a mic check before the service, and it wasn’t long into my welcome that it became apparent that several hard of hearing folks couldn’t hear what I was saying. Finally, we got things figured out. But even after the microphone was turned on, a few struggled to make out what I was saying.
Odds are there will be many elderly people at the funeral. Talk loud enough for them to hear you. But not so loud that you blast the family who is sitting in the front row.
Now, in this post, I’ve skipped over the most important stuff, like shaping everything around the gospel.