What are some pre-funeral logistics to keep in mind?

I often get asked about funerals.  Especially, those who have never done one, but are desiring to pastor.  There are so many details to know and unique challenges to face, it can be hard to sift through the practicalities of funerals.  For this post, I would like to submit some basic logistics that are essential to know as you show up a few minutes before performing a funeral.

Depending on the situation, arrive at the funeral home 15-30 minutes before the funeral starts.  This allows you to greet the family, check in with the funeral director, and ensure plans haven’t changed since the director last talked with you (because they often change).  This will also prevent one of the most embarrassing moments of your ministry—being late to conduct a funeral (trust me I know).  Inform the funeral director at this time whether you will ride with him to the graveside, or drive on your own in the procession. Make sure those involved in the service are accounted for and have prepared what you have asked of them.  It is ideal if you can gather others involved in the service a few minutes before in order to talk through the service and pray asking the Lord to awaken souls to the gospel and comfort his hurting people.  Finally, make sure you start on time.  Many folks have come early with the anticipation that it will start when announced.  Though there are exceptions, you should be able to count on the funeral director to help, not hinder this being accomplished.

Some funeral homes close the casket before the service begins.  In one tradition, the minister is typically asked to meet for prayer with the family prior to the beginning of the funeral service.  Often, if the casket is already in the chapel, the director will close the casket prior to the family’s entrance.   In other traditions where the deceased has been lying in state in a family room, the minister will pray with the family, and then the family will be led to the chapel.  Meanwhile, the minister waits with the casket as the directors close it.  Then he leads the casket into the service, motioning for the attendees to stand in honor of the deceased.  Regardless the tradition, make sure you know what is the typical protocol for that particular funeral home.  Don’t assume all do it the same.

In future posts, I intend to deal with many of the other stages of preparation and performing funerals in a way that will hopefully serve those of you trying to think through this most important and inevitable aspect of pastoral ministry.

Posted in Funerals
9 comments on “What are some pre-funeral logistics to keep in mind?
  1. Great post, Brian. I am looking forward to reading your future posts on funerals.

  2. Steve says:

    I realize this is an obvious point but sometimes we tend to forget the obvious: Make sure your cell phone is either on “silent” or off! I witnessed an embarrassing moment when a pastor’s cell phone rang loud and clear just as soon as he finished a prayer in the middle of the service. (Some of us gave him a hard time about it afterward, of course.) Do be mindful of all these things.

    Brian, I always appreciate your well thought-out posts and your pastor’s heart! Your ministry to me is tremendous.

    *In case you’re wondering, the pastor did answer the call after slipping out of the sanctuary.

  3. Dan S. says:

    Brian,

    I’m glad you are doing this series. One thing I would like to add, in many rural communities, it is common place to have the funeral at the church. Is there anything you would like to add if the church is the location for the service?

    Dan

  4. Robert says:

    Brian,

    In the 25 years I have served as a pastor in various parts of the country I would definitely add this advice: If you do choose to drive your own car to the cemetery as part of the funeral procession, you will probably be placed immediately behind the hearse in the procession lineup. Make sure your car is clean inside and out! It is a courtesy to the family, the funeral home, and the rest of the procession that you do not show up in a filthy car with an inside that resembles a filing cabinet and McDonald’s trash receptacle. If you do not have a vehicle appropriate for the procession, definitely ride with the funeral director, or borrow a vehicle that is.

  5. Doug Hibbard says:

    Thoughts I would add as a pastor and the son of a funeral director:

    1. Remember the funeral director is there to help, not compete. Most funeral directors have no personal glory they’re seeking and want to help out.

    2. Be aware of everyone involved’s time. This is not your Sunday morning service, rather it’s a time to honor the deceased and provide the comfort of the Gospel, and many people that are there are taking time away from work or other obligations to be there. And they are not there to hear you as the preacher. They are there to hear what you say, but not for you.

    3. Don’t pop a surprise on the funeral director or family by doing something like asking for audience input if the family hasn’t asked for it.

    4. Really make sure you communicate with the director and the family: oftentimes, the family plans the service with the funeral director and then pastors come in with their agendas without consulting anyone. There might be something you don’t know.

    Just my 4 cents worth.

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