Over the course of your ministry, you may be called upon to preach the funerals of saved and unsaved people. You may even be called upon to preside over the entire service.
If you’ve done funerals or home-goings, then you may already know this information.
Initial Family Contact
The initial contact comes at moments we’re not prepared, but when they come, you have to say and do things to reassure the family that you’ll be there to help them through the most horrible moment in life. The death of a loved one.
Your job as a minister is to provide Biblically and spiritually compassionate service to families in their moment of death in the family.
It’s important that you provide direction, spiritual comfort, and help with handling the service. Lasting impressions are important however, you must never be asked to compromise the call of God on your life. Remember, we will render an account for everything that we do.
When initially contacting the family, make yourself available as best as possible. Pray with them, and share with them comforting Scriptures. Don’t be overbearing or longwinded. Less is more. One person once said (paraphrasing) “Our short public prayers must be a snapshot of our long private prayers.”
When a family requests your service, it’s important that you honor, as Biblically possible, their requests and wishes. As a minister of Jesus Christ, should a family member make a request that violate the Bible, you should respectfully and tactfully dishonor the request. You should give them the Biblical Scripture or Scriptures that underscores the reason why their request cannot be honored.
Some family members will get upset. It’s important to understand that they may not require your services and you have to be understanding of this. But remember, you work for the Lord Jesus to serve the people the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Deceased’s Spiritual Status
It’s important to get as much information regarding the deceased’s spiritual upbringing. If they’re in Christ, then you can feel confident that you can present a eulogy (speaking well of a person) that underscores their personal relationship with the Lord. It’s good to find out what their activities were, inside and outside the house of worship. Their obituary will most likely be drafted by a close family member. It’s good to glean from these, as information about them will be available.
It doesn’t hurt to ask family members what the deceased’s interests were. I’m sure they will be willing to share as much information. Should you get permission to share this information, it’s also good to mention during the eulogy by whom that information came from. It gives the family members a sense of connection during their moment of mourning.
If the deceased isn’t in Christ, you could still glean some information and share them, within reason. We must never preach sinners into heaven. It’s not right to talk about the deceased as if they’re in heaven when they may not be saved. So exercise caution. We must speak the truth in love. Less is more, so use your Spirit led judgment.
If you’re young in the ministry, it’s good to watch seasoned preachers preside over funerals and home-goings. We’ve all made mistakes so just know that you will observe some things that may be obvious errors. Just learn as much information as you can. As you officiate more of these services, somewhere along the line, you will develop a consistent repertoire that suits your ministry.
WATCH THE CLOCK
Funeral services, depending on the time of day or night, are costly. Every minute after a certain time that you’re expected to complete the service may be costly to the family. Please keep in mind that should you do a day time funeral with burial following the service, the clock is ticking. The cemetery is on a clock in terms of handling the interment of other deceased people, scheduled to be interred the same day.
Most families may not have adequate funds for burial and may opt to cremate. The body may be transported to a crematorium or they may have a crematorium on the premises if the service is conducted at the funeral home. Nonetheless, you’re still on the clock. So please be mindful of this.
Traffic may be heavy so you have to be on time with the service.
THE ALTAR CALL
These services will have family and friends that aren’t saved. It’s the best opportunity to sow the seed, which is the Word of God. Most pastors have an altar call before turning the service over to the funeral director for final instructions and final viewing of the remains.
It’s the call of the minister to have an altar call but the most important thing that could be done is that you share the gospel, repentance, forgiveness of sins, a declaration of Jesus as Lord, and instruct them to get to a local church to get water baptized, and discipled.
You could also tell them to meet you after service for further ministry if they’re too timid to approach you during the service.
In some instances, you may not be able to accompany the family to perform the interment service. The funeral director will ask you to do the committal service at the church or funeral home. For the deceased the died in Christ, the normal committal service should be performed either at the house of worship, funeral home, or gravesite.
If the deceased isn’t in Christ, you can do an abbreviated committal service because if you know that the deceased isn’t in Christ, it makes no sense to pretend that they’ve entered into heaven.
A recommended committal for the unsaved deceased…..
“We acknowledge the departure of our dear beloved (name of the deceased), we commit (his/her) body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
And then go right into a final prayer and benediction.
Being A Blessing To People
Most ministers do services for hire. In other words, they offer their services for pay.
Some funeral homes personally hire preachers to perform services as well as organists. Families may opt to have the service performed to their liking. You get what you pay for.
But there’s nothing inconsistent with an independent minister to request “reasonable compensation” since funeral homes add to the cost funeral home associated sacerdotal services.
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:18 that the, “Laborer is worthy of his hire.”
The IRS calls this “reasonable compensation.”
Reasonable means consistent with what other ministers are paid for services. It’s understandable that many people frown upon this. However, if the minister doesn’t have outside income from working a legal secular job, there’s nothing wrong with accepting “reasonable compensation” for services performed.
Then there are pastors that refuse “reasonable compensation.”
It’s important not to take advantage of people because remember, the cost of the funeral is already enormous, to impose an additional financial hardship on the family will not only leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, they will blaspheme the name of the Lord.
Granted. Some ministers don’t care, we get it. But if you care in their hour of need, not to take advantage of them, you may be the one person that may steer people to become a born again believer in Christ.