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Working with Funeral Directors – A Guide for Churches

When someone has died and a religious funeral or memorial service will be held, the funeral home and place of worship work together with the family to ensure all details are planned. For new churches or churches not often called upon for funeral assistance, what’s required may not be obvious. This guide to working with funeral directors can assist when your church is asked to help plan a funeral.

Get to Know Local Funeral Directors

Knowing in advance who to call in the event of a death is a valuable service to the family. If someone from your church or pastoral staff will introduce themselves to local funeral directors and obtain their contact information, you’ll be prepared in advance to provide that service.

Designate a Funeral Support Contact

The church may also want to designate a contact person who can answer questions and meet with funeral home personnel when a funeral is being planned. Whether the service will be held at the funeral home with the pastor officiating or at the church with the funeral home transporting the deceased and providing support, coordinating with the funeral director on the details is best done by a single contact. That person can then inform the pastor, musicians and others involved in the service of the details.

Begin to Gather Funeral Details

Determining the location, date and time of the funeral at the beginning allows those planning the funeral to begin preparing funeral bulletins, death announcements and other publications containing the details of the service. Most funeral homes are in the process of scheduling multiple services, so keep in mind that both the church’s schedule and the schedule of the funeral home must be considered when helping the family plan.

Another way to avoid confusion when coordinating your church’s support with the funeral director is knowing exactly what the funeral home will provide. If the service will be held in the funeral home chapel with music, funeral sermon and other elements provided by the church, knowing ahead of time the audio-visual equipment available and the physical setup of the chapel will help reduce last minute changes.

The church’s funeral support contact should also be part of planning the actual order of service, so that there’s no misunderstanding about what’s required. Other important information, such as when the deceased will be transported to the church, whether or not there will be a separate viewing and where it will be held, where the interment will take place and at what time, what the family wishes the church to provide during the service, and if the funeral director will supply support services such as ushers, transportation for the family and dispersal of floral offerings should all be coordinated with family, funeral director and your church funeral support contact.

Provide Additional Support Services

Many funeral homes now offer printing of customized funeral programs, prayer cards and other mementos, but if not, your church may be asked to assist the family with that task. By using templates for funeral programs and other keepsakes, they can easily be prepared and printed in advance of the service. Again, it’s important to coordinate with the funeral director so that duplicate publications are avoided.

One more support service that funeral directors may request of your church is to have a pastor or elder on hand during visitation at the funeral home. Knowing this in advance allows you to communicate with those involved.

Working with the bereaved can be an important ministry of your church, and learning how to work with local funeral directors is a vital part of that ministry. By taking the time to get to know the details of funeral planning and how your church can coordinate well with funeral homes, you will provide a valuable service to your congregation and others in the community.