7 Steps to Prepare & Deliver a Funeral Sermon

WP Greet Box icon
Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.

Photo credit: Creation Swap user Krist Adams

I realize that some of you have never delivered a funeral sermon, and perhaps you never will.

But I also know that, at just the thought of delivering a funeral sermon, others of you will begin to get the sweaty-palm. Your heart beats a little faster at the thought of having to stand in front of a casket to deliver words that convey hope and life in a room full of death. And though you may not be able to envision ever having to preach a funeral sermon, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll have the opportunity at some point in your life.

In my short tenure as a pastor, I’ve unfortunately been asked to preach many funeral sermons. I say “unfortunately” because I don’t thoroughly enjoy the heaviness. Even so,through meeting with families, weeping with them, getting to know somebody that I will never physically know, and communicating hope in the midst of pain, I’ve learned a lot about preparing and delivering a funeral sermon.

Having a system in place is incredibly important. Without a system, you won’t know the next step to take when you get the call that says, “____ has just passed away, and I want you to preach at the funeral…”

 

Preparing and Delivering a Funeral Sermon

Meet with the family.

Weep with them. Ask questions that help them recall the good memories. In the process, take note of stories and defining marks in their lives. Try this question:

If you could describe _____ in one word, what would it be?

Capture stories.

As the family is describing their loved one, feverishly take notes. Capture details from stories so you can better understand the life and legacy of the loved one.

Use this as a guiding question: What did _____ do as a hobby/for fun?

Find humor.

Listen for funny stories. If the family doesn’t offer any, ask for some. Likely, the family is sitting on them, not sure if they really have the freedom to share something funny in a setting like this. Humor (that maintains dignity and honor for the deceased) helps break the heavy tension of the service.

Try these guiding questions: Do you have any funny stories from ______’s life? What were some of _______’s nicknames?

As much as you can, incorporate the family’s wishes into the service.

I say “as much as you can,” because it could be that the family asks you to do something that contradicts your value system. But consider asking this:

Is there a verse, a quote, or a song that you would like incorporated into the service?

During the service, connect positive characteristics with a story from the person’s life.

Pick three or four defining positive characteristics of the loved one that you gathered from your conversation with the family and present them each with a story (or two). This helps paint a picture of a person’s life for those who didn’t know them as well, and it reminds family and friends of the good times.

Be honest, but not hard. 

It’s okay to be honest in your sermon, but don’t use it as a time to bash the deceased, even if the family relationships were difficult or the person was an unbeliever. First of all, it’s not your place. Secondly, it’s not becoming. Ever.

Give hope. 

Everybody in the room is focused on death, so utilize this as a time to connect people with the truth that this life is short, and the Gospel is the only hope of eternity with Jesus. If you don’t land here, you’ll leave people dry and miss out on a great opportunity to share true hope with hurting people.

Question: Have you ever had to give a funeral sermon? What did I leave out?

*I’ve also mapped out how I go about laying out a marriage sermon HERE.

* Photo credit: Creation Swap user Krist Adams 

 

 

 

Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.arnyslight.wordpress.com Arnyslight

    I want someone to preach like that at my funeral…

    Then I want them to throw a party and celebrate…(I need to put that in my will…)…

    May it be annouced that Arny is seeing Jesus face to face.  His Savior and Friend!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Yeah…me too, Arny!

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    I’ve never done an actual funeral sermon, but I have given a few eulogies for family members (the most recent being my Grandma’s back in August), and these tips apply to that as well. 

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Yes they do, Jason. 

      Sorry to hear about your Grandma. I lost my grandma in December. It was incredibly tough, as I’m sure it was for you, too.

  • Claire

    great post ben.  and from experience i think it would be really useful.  2 years ago one of my housegroup young adults was killed in a car accident.  our pastor was away on a mission trip in the pacific islands.  at 8.05 i got a text from his girlfriend’s (also in our group) brother to say this young guy was dead.  i thought it was a joke.  (dont ever text someone that news!)  i was the person to ring our housegroup and church friends to tell them the news.  one of the hardest things i have ever done.  then we all gathered, first at church and my house.  talking.  crying.  laughing.  sharing.  because our pastor was away i became the liason with his family, who were not christians, and church and his girlfriend.  he had only been a christian about a year.  some very difficult moments there.  i also went with his family and girlfriend to view his body at the fuenral home, something i wouldnt have chosen to do and had never done before.  and yes, i prayed for his resurrection.   his funeral was beautiful.  powerful.  sad.   our pastor had come back from mission and he led the funeral.  i did a euology.  again one of the hardest things i have ever had to do.    i think your post is excellet ben, i wish i had read it before chris died, i felt like i was navigating uncharted waters, all at teh same time as dealing with my own grief and loss and trying to keep everyone else together and sort out logistics.  thanks heaps!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Claire. That’s heavy stuff.

      I share these ideas because I know that each and every funeral service is difficult. Having a system in place has helped me tremendously.

      I wish I never had to do another one…alas, death is inevitable.

  • http://bit.ly/hWr7Cw Rob T

    i’m glad this is not a big part of my job description.  have only done a few, and one was of the most devastating variety.  thanks for the tips.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      They’re tough, as I’m sure you know. Hope these tips help…it’s my system that I’ve developed. I know I have to have a system because these services are tough every single time.