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Funeral Do’s and Don’ts
 By Ivan Williams

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DO work with the family and the funeral home director in planning the funeral service. If you know the family is challenged financially, let them know they don't need to prove their love for the deceased by over-spending on the funeral.

DO inquire of the family regarding their desires for the service itself and seek to accommodate accordingly. It is important to be aware of the musical selections made by the family.

DO try to visit with a variety of family members before preparing the service. Each will have a different perspective of the deceased to share with you. It can also be helpful to invite family members to write a personal note about the person. Some of these comments can then be included in your remarks.

DO check on the correct pronunciation of all names to be read from the obituary (clergy record).

DO arrive early for the funeral. Make sure all participants in the service are present and aware of their responsibilities. Provide each participant, including the funeral home representative, with an "Order of Service." Make sure all parties clearly understand the order of events and the logistics of the service, including the dismissal.

DO make the service personal. In addition to sharing God's Word, reflect positively, genuinely, and realistically about the deceased.

DON'T preach long at a funeral. Share the Word, but keep your comments short and sweet. People have come to pay their respects to the deceased and to show their support for the family, not to hear a lengthy sermon. While there may be some variation depending on cultural expectations, 30 minutes is typically a good length of time for an entire funeral service (the church or chapel portion).

DON'T say to the bereaved, "I know how you feel." Even if you experienced a similar loss, it is important to remember that different people experience grief differently. Every person is unique, and that uniqueness should be respected.

DON'T convey expectations that inhibit the family from experiencing or expressing their sorrow. They shouldn't feel pressure to project "victory." On the other hand, don't play on the emotions of people in an attempt to make the service a "tear-jerker.”

DON'T be disingenuous or overly opportunistic about winning the family to your church.

Ivan Williams is the ministerial director for the North American Division