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Christian Funeral or Memorial Service

Guide to Planning a Christian Funeral or Memorial Service

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Christian Funeral
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Planning a Christian funeral is never an easy thing to do. Saying goodbye to a loved one is difficult. People grieve in different ways. Oftentimes family tension adds to the stress during an already emotionally burdensome period. This practical and spiritual guide is designed to alleviate some of the burden and offer steps to help you plan your loved one's Christian funeral service.

First, before making any plans, ask family members if your loved one left specific directions for their funeral. If so, this will greatly ease the load of making decisions and guessing what your loved one would have wanted. Be sure to find out if your loved one has a funeral or burial insurance policy or prepaid arrangements with a funeral home or cemetery.

If no prearrangements have been made:

Preparing Your Attitude

Start by arming yourself with the right attitude. Making the funeral arrangements will be less of a weight if you recognize that it can actually help you and your loved ones work through the grieving process. Begin thinking of the service as a celebration of the person's life. It should be dignified and respectful without being depressing and morbid. Along with mourning, there should be room for expressions of joy—even laughter.

Choosing a Funeral Home

Next, contact a funeral home. If you're not sure of a reputable one, ask your church for a recommendation. The staff of the funeral home will expertly guide you through the process, from legal documents, preparing an obituary, choosing a casket or cremation, and every element of the memorial service and burial.

Choosing a Minister

If your loved one was a member of a church, they would most likely want you to ask a pastor or minister from their church to officiate the service. If you are working with a funeral home, let them contact the minister of your choice. If the deceased had no contact with a church, you may want to rely on the funeral home to recommend a minister, or ask family members to help decide on a minister. The person you choose to officiate will have a large part in shaping the overall dynamics of the funeral service.

Offer Hope

As a Christian keep in mind this important detail when planning the funeral service. Funerals are one of the rare times in life when non-Christians stop to think about eternity. A funeral is the perfect opportunity for a Christian family to share their faith and the hope for eternity with non-believing family and friends. If you wish to clearly present the gospel and offer the hope of salvation in Christ, be sure to ask the minister to include this in his message.

Planning the Service

Once you have a plan for the service, you should sit down with the minister and go over the details:
  • Any special songs or music you would like to include.
  • Any poems, stories, Bible verses, or readings you would like to include.
  • Any special speakers or singers you would like to participate.
  • Any specific photos of your loved one or family you would like displayed.
  • Is there a charity or a benefit you would recommend to mourners in lieu of sending flowers?
  • If guests are invited to the grave side service, an announcement should be made at the end of the service.

Working with a Funeral Coordinator

Many churches have funeral coordinators. If the service is at a church, you will want to speak with the person responsible for coordinating the funeral to go over details, such as arrival times, flower arrangements, audio and visual needs, reception arrangements, etc. If the service is at a funeral home, they will work with you to coordinate every detail.

Preparing a Eulogy

A typical eulogy is about 5 minutes in length. It is recommended to leave the emotional elements for the end of the eulogy. Any additional tributes given by family or friends should be limited in length to keep the service from going too long. Young children and family members may want to write down a few sentences to be read aloud by the minister or the person giving the eulogy.

Whether or not you are giving the eulogy, it is helpful to have certain facts and information available. Here is a sample eulogy outline to aid you in preparing the necessary information.

Outline of a Eulogy

  • Give a brief history including birth date, place of birth, parents, grandparents, siblings.
  • Where did they grow up? What was their childhood like?
  • Where did they go to school?
  • Professional and career accomplishments?
  • Who did they marry? When and where? Children and grandchildren.
  • How long were they married?
  • Significant life accomplishments.
  • Personal interests, hobbies, achievements.
  • Character qualities, Christian service, and how they affected other lives.

Special Remembrances

A table is often provided for the family to place special remembrances, photographs and other memorabilia during the service. Be sure to think about what you might want to display. Take some time to gather these items and make arrangements with the funeral coordinator.

Service Handout

Because most memorial services are planned in a relatively short period of time, this detail is often overlooked. If you would like the guests to have a memento or remembrance, you can provide a special printed handout or bookmark. This can be as simple as a picture of your loved one with their birth and death dates, the order of service and a cherished Bible verse. Check with the funeral home or coordinator, as they may provide this for you upon request.

Guest Book

When I used to help coordinate funerals for my church, I noticed that families often forgot to bring a book for the guests to sign. This record of attendance is usually very meaningful to family members, so ask someone to be responsible to bring a guest book and a nice pen.

Length of Service

The entire length of the funeral service often depends on the number of guests. Time should be allow either before or after the service to greet your guests and give them a moment to say their good byes to the deceased. It is recommended to keep the actual service length anywhere between 30-60 minutes.

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