Preparing a funeral sermon can be challenging, especially if you did not know the deceased or were not close to the family. As you meet with the family and friends who have just lost a loved one, ask questions that will draw out specific personality and character traits that will make your sermon personal.
In One Word
When you sit down with the family, begin the conversation with this question: “If you could describe your dad/mom/sister/brother in one word, what would it be?” It is helpful to give each person a few minutes to ponder the question and then allow the group to bounce ideas off each other. This one-word brainstorm just may give you the core theme of your sermon.
Gather a list of stories about the deceased by asking the family, “What was he like growing up?” or “What was his favorite hobby?” If he was a holy terror when he was young, you are certain to get some funny stories that will bring laughter to your audience through the tears. For a person who spent weekends at the lake or always talked about the one that got away, funeral attendees will fondly remember how much he loved that old fishing rod. If the family members have a hard time remembering funny stories, ask, “What were some of his nicknames?” to get the ball rolling.
Funeral Service Details
Now that you have a good idea of what the deceased’s personality was like, move on to more specific questions about the funeral service. Ask the family, “What would you like to see in the service? Are there any Bible verses, poems or songs that you want to include? What were the deceased’s wishes for her memorial service?” Make the effort to grant as many wishes as you can, such as the order of service, a photo slideshow or a 21-gun salute.
In addition to helping the funeral attendees remember their departed one in a personal way, a funeral sermon can reiterate her beliefs to those who are still living. Ask, “What did she believe about life after death? Did she hope for her soul to return to her ancestors or nature? Is there to be a time of fasting or mourning?” Life is short, and people are keenly aware of that at a loved one’s funeral. Communicating the departed one’s faith to those who remain is a way to process a loss.
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