One of the most difficult things a pastor does is walk with a family through the death of a loved one. Whether expected or unexpected, these situations can be emotional, stressful, and difficult. At the exact same time, these situations provide a wonderful opportunity for ministry. Over the years I have preached numerous funerals. Here are 3 things I have learned.
1- Your presence is just as important as your words.
Certainly your words are important, but I have been in numerous situations where there were no words, there were no easy answers, there was nothing I could say that could ease the pain of tragic loss. In my first encounters with these type of situations, I would always try to say something helpful, and there is a time for that, but I learned that simply being with the family was just as important (maybe more so) than anything I could say.
Be available for your people in their time of loss. Demonstrate the love of God.
2- The more church members you have involved in ministering, the more impacted the family will be.
Obviously I am not talking about including many people in the funeral service, but there are many opportunities for ministry leading up to and following the service. Many churches provide meals for the family. Some churches offer grief counseling classes. Other churches have members organize follow-up visits with the family in the weeks following a loss. The more people you have involved in these types of activities the greater your impact will be.
The funeral service is just one aspect of the ministry that needs to take place. Equip the church to be the Church. It will make a difference in these situations.
3- You will never regret preaching Jesus.
Thankfully, this is something I learned early on. The funeral service may be your only opportunity to speak Truth into the lives of those in attendance. To fail to preach Jesus is to miss a great opportunity to point people to the only remedy for their true need.
Always preach Jesus!
Funerals will always be difficult, but with the correct perspective and focus, they can also be great opportunities for life-changing ministry. Trust God to change lives through you (1) demonstrating the love of God (2) equipping your church to be the Church, and (3) speaking Truth from the Word of God.