I went to social media to listen to pastors. It is always rewarding and instructing to hear from these church leaders.
My question was simple: What are some do’s and don’ts for preaching funerals? Several hundred pastors responded. I have attempted to rank the responses in order of frequency. Here are the top twelve.
1. DO preach the gospel. This response was an overwhelming number one. Pastors view a funeral as a unique time to talk about eternal matters. Many of the pastors had recommendations on how to preach the gospel in this setting.
2. DON’T have an open microphone. I did not expect this issue to be so pervasive, but it was a clear second recommendation. One pastor told the story of having to pull someone away from the microphone. The speaker was both inebriated and incoherent.
3. DO talk with the family before the funeral. The pastors emphasized how important it is to get to know the deceased through the words of his or her family.
4. DON’T make the funeral about yourself. A number of pastors expressed frustration when other pastors use themselves as the focal points of illustrations or as best friends with the deceased.
5. DO mention the deceased by name on several occasions. The pastors reminded us how much the family appreciates hearing the name of their loved ones. It is both assuring and comforting.
6. DON’T mispronounce the deceased’s name. It only takes a few minutes to confirm with family members exactly how his or her name is pronounced.
7. DO keep the message brief. Most of the recommendations were in the range of ten to twenty minutes. One pastor reminded us that a funeral is not the place to try your latest sermon.
8. DON’T preach the deceased into heaven. Many pastors admit they are often unsure about the deceased’s relationship with Christ. They emphasize that pastors should not attempt to frame the sermon as if the person was a Christian if they are unsure.
9. DO show up early for the funeral. Showing up late can be a sign of disrespect for the deceased and the family. Show up early, the pastors encouraged, and spend time with the family.
10. DON’T assume the funeral details are perfectly planned. Check with both the family and the funeral director about the order of the service and the specific requests of the family.
11. DO make personal comments and share anecdotes about the deceased. Again, it is best to get these from the family. Honor the deceased and comfort and respect the family.
12. DON’T read the obituary. Many of them are long. Most of them are boring. Incorporate key points about the deceased into your funeral message.
I am appreciative of the hundreds of pastors who shared these points and many others. I would love to hear from you about some additional insights.
Posted on January 31, 2022
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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