1. Always write out your opening and closing prayers or statements.
2. Live music interspersed in the service is very helpful. Instrumentals, solos, even CDs will often help a lot and take some of the pressure off of the minister. Keep them short, though.
3. Having close relatives read passages like Psalm 91, Psalm 23, 1 Cor. 13, etc., work well.
4. One close relative who is a good speaker should prepare and read an honoring biography. If you knew the deceased well, you (the minister) can do this part. However, it’s nice when a relative can tell warm stories about the deceased.
5. The minister should deliver a brief message. For Christians who have died, talk about heaven. For those who may not have been saved, talk about grace or forgiveness.
6. Closing with everyone saying the Lord’s Prayer works well.
7. At the end, invite close friends and relatives to share remembrances briefly from the microphone. I’ve conducted several services for homeless people. At this point, I hold the microphone for the friend who is speaking, because I may need to take it back if they become inappropriate (I smile, hug them, and whisper in their ear, “Good job, let’s stop there”). I’ve even asked the biggest friend to be my usher if needed, but I’ve never needed it. A lot of times people drink heavily before a funeral so just be prepared, gracious, and firm.
8. Some sort of reception afterwards is always appropriate. Many funeral homes do not allow food. So if you can do it at a church, that’s best. The reception should be as close as possible; on-site is best.
9. It’s amazing how uncomfortable people are before the service and how blessed they are afterwards. Focus on God and people will be helped.
10. Print out the scriptures that relatives will read in large font. Bring several copies.
11. Print out your order of service for all participants and or have it in the bulletin.
12. Arrive very early, check mics, bring a case of small bottled waters, breath mints, and Kleenex.
13. Wear a black suit and dark tie.
14. Humor helps, but it’s best to let it come from the family and not from the minister. Stay professional, gracious, and warm.
15. Double check any facts about the deceased or the family. I’ve been given printed material that was incorrect or had important typographical errors.
16. Weddings should always start on time. A funeral can start 5 minutes late if important people are still arriving.
17. For funerals where many people speak a foreign language, it’s okay for the speakers to speak in their language. We’ve done several funerals where I spoke in English, but the scriptures were read in Spanish or the remembrances from family members were in Spanish. This worked fine.
18. I do a lot of funerals for the unsaved and unchurched. I talk to the close relatives and tell them about my convictions and ask for their permission to respectfully talk about heaven, mercy, and Jesus. No one has said ‘no.’
19. If the deceased ever served in the armed forces or for a police or fire department, officers will often participate in the funeral service and this can be very honoring to the family. Military/National cemeteries are less expensive.