Funerals are a difficult time for everyone, but for followers of Christ, it is a time of rejoicing since they will be reunited with Jesus. During funeral’s there is usually a sermon delivered by the pastor, to help comfort those who were left behind by the one who passed and help them say goodbye. I’ve always wondered how the pastor determines what to say in their sermon, and how they prep themselves to deliver it, so I decided to do some research.
How do you write a funeral sermon? Writing a funeral sermon is a very detailed process. You must first get to know your family and their departed. Then you must acknowledge the reality, reason, realm, and results of death itself and understand how to be ready for death.
As a pastor it is a part of your reality that at some point you will have to write a funeral sermon, so check out this post to learn how.
What To Do Before Preparing Your Sermon
When you are asked to write a sermon for a funeral you must not go straight to writing the sermon. There are several steps you must do before and throughout writing your sermon. It is important to do these first three steps in order to have a very thought out and personalized sermon for the deceased.
This is important because funerals in themselves are an incredibly heartbreaking experience despite the circumstances, and your job as the pastor who’s leading this is to ensure that you are providing comfort to the family as well as reflecting Jesus.
1. Visit the Family
The very first thing you should do after hearing about the passing is to visit the family as soon as possible. This is crucial because it will help provide them comfort and solidify your relationship with so that they are even more comfortable with you teaching the sermon at the funeral.
Once you’re there make sure that you greet the family, listen to them, let them know that you’re available for anything they might need, and then pray over them and their loved one. If you’re not quite sure what to say start by just speaking to the Lord and allow Him to lead you during this time.
It is important to try not to comfort them with words of encouragement because they just lost their loved one and have not had any time to process it yet. Your main focus should just be to provide them as much comfort as you possibly can during this time.
After a couple of days of the initial passing, you will want to make sure that you check in with them and schedule a time to visit and discuss the plans for the funeral. This should not be the only time you check in with the family.
You should make sure that you check in with the family 1-2 times a week leading up to the funeral, and a couple of times after the funeral as well.
Know how often you can do this according to your schedule, but ensure that you make time for this as their pastor to provide them comfort and peace through our heavenly father.
3. Meeting to Discuss Funeral Plans
When meeting see if you can meet at the home of the departed or the family can bring meaningful items that were theirs when meeting. When they arrive ask how they are and catch up before just jumping into the planning.
After you finalize the plans for the funeral including the date and time, if there’s anyone else they want to speak, if it will be an open casket funeral or not, if they want to have an open mic at the end, and other items they may want to include.
Start discussing their loved one with them so that you can include a bio about them as part of your sermon. You will want to ask about their favorite bible verse, worship song, hobbies, life achievements, their family, and walk with the Lord.
It is also a good idea to ask the family if you can look at their Bible so that you can see what they highlighted and a better idea of their relationship with Christ.
Once you have accomplished all these steps and began writing your sermon I highly recommend taking this free enrichment course that goes over how to write sermons by clicking here.
Even if you have already written sermons before, this course will help to give a Christ-centered sermon at the funeral.
Writing Your Funeral Sermon Step By Step
Writing a sermon for a funeral can be a long sometimes difficult process, but I created this step-by-step guide to help simplify the process for you and to ensure that you are writing a touching personalized sermon that will provide comfort to everyone attending.
1). The 5 R’s To Remember
In order to write a proper sermon for a funeral, you must first understand the 5 R’s: The reality of death, the reason for death, the results of death, and how to be ready for death.
The reality of death is the fact that everyone at some point in their life will pass away, and in fact, there are approximately 50 million deaths per year. I say this to inform you rather than scare you.
This is important to be aware of when prepping a funeral, so you have the correct mindset being that death is a fact of our lives and is not something that can simply be ignored for anyone but that we must also not live our lives in fear of it.
The reason for death is biblical and we find the reason for death in Genesis when it’s first mentioned in verse 2:17.
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”Genesis 2:17
God created a perfect world for us to exist and only had one command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve disobeyed God and because of this, the fall occurred causing death to be a part of our reality.
There are two different realms of death the physical and spiritual. Physical death is a realm that everyone experiences where our body gives us up and our physical self ceases to exist.
Spiritual death is a realm where people are fully separated from God after physical death occurs.
As you dig deep into this one we can not ultimately decide whether or not someone is spiritually dead, but look at what was reflected in their life so that you may get a better idea of whether this person was a follower of Christ or not.
If they are not a follower of Christ you must find a balance in your sermon of comforting the family, while not stretching the truth of the reality of their loved ones’ death.
The results are connected to the realm. The results are whether this person will encounter just a physical death or a spiritual and physical one. Those who have faith in Christ will be united with Christ immediately after death which is something to celebrate because they no longer in pain, but instead perfect peace.
Those who do not have faith and have not made an effort to move from their sin will not get the joy of this experience and will eternally be separated from God.
How to be Ready
Readiness is crucial for every follower of Christ to understand, that not only we are able to be ready for when we leave this world but so that we can help others be ready as well.
In order to be ready for when Jesus takes us home, we must first accept Christ into our hearts as our Lord and savior. Secondly, we must admit that we are all sinners and fall short of His glory. Thirdly, believe that Jesus is the song of God and that God is our creator who loves us.
Finally, you must actively confess your sins throughout your life, and live out a life pursuing to be like Jesus in all that you do.
2). Create Your Outline
After you have familiarized yourself with the 5 R’s and have an idea of how can incorporate them into your sermon you must create an outline.
An outline helps you to write an organized sermon and create a flow so that you can have a very clear and engaging sermon. You do not want to confuse your audience or make your message unclear. For a funeral sermon, your focus should be to celebrate the person who passed and provide comfort for all those attending.
The outline I usually use when creating a sermon is:
- Transition into message
- Reading of scripture
- Transition into application/ conclusion
- Application/ conclusion
You can adjust this outline to whatever works best for you and helps you organize your sermon, but you must include all of these components in a sermon. The transition helps your message flow better by helping you have a connection between your introduction and scripture so that it is not just a harsh end and beginning between each.
The transition between your scripture and application/ conclusion is where you want to focus on the importance of scripture.
Prayer is a way to invite Jesus into the room, and a way of closing this chapter for a funeral. You can make this a time of praying specifically for their family, the loved ones, or even for the audience’s salvation.
I am not going to go deep into this step because I believe prayer should be natural and that you should fully allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, but I do highly recommend writing down points that you want to mention in your prayer so that you stay on topic.
3). Write your Introduction
Your introduction should include a biography of the person which is very important to have discussed them with their loved ones so that it feels like you personally knew the passed on if you didn’t already.
Whether your sermon is fora believer or not you want to use this time to really shine some light on their life. Now, this does not mean making them sound like a hero even if they did some really bad things, but instead to focus on the positives of their life.
I believe that there is at least one good thing about every single person that exists and you must bring that out in the sermon to help those who are present cope with the loss. Doing so might also help provide an opportunity for forgiveness and reconciliation with those attending.
When writing this make sure to touch base with a few of the people who were closest to the one who passed, so that all needs to be told about their life that is told.
On the outline of your sermon plot out how much time you are going to spend on the introduction after practicing it. If the family wants a slideshow of their loved ones’ life I suggest having a shorter introduction to give time for this.
4). Choosing Scripture
Scripture is a must for any type of sermon because we want to teach what is from God’s word so that we do not incidentally end up teaching anything that is not of God. All of what we go through is included in the Bible including death, so all that we teach is able to flow from it.
When choosing your scripture you have to go back to the focus of your sermon. Since it is for a funeral it should be to celebrate the person who passed and provide comfort for all who are attending.
You also have to decide how deep you are going to go into the 5 R’s in your sermon, and discuss with the family what they would like so that you can respect them.
There is one piece of scripture that is very commonly used for funerals because it is comforting, and a great reminder of what death means for us as Christians.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.-Psalm 23
Though this verse is definitely an option I recommend including a verse that was close to the departed, so that you can make it personalized.
Here are some more verses to teach off of for your funeral sermon.
- Romans 8:35-39
- Isaiah 57:1-2
- John 14:1-3
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
- 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
- Job 19:23-27
To learn more about how to choose scripture check out this enrichment course from Bethany Global university by clicking here.
5). Sermon Conclusion
Your conclusion is the last chance to hit any points or mention anything further regarding the departed. This part of your sermon should provide additional comfort for those attending, and in a way be a final goodbye.
You should tie in the scripture you reviewed to your sermon so that it flows well and gets your point across.
Finally allow time for those who are attending to say anything about their loved one if you are doing an open mic time, and then end with prayer.
Writing funeral sermons will push you and at sometimes be difficult, but they allow the family of the passed on to have closure. Writing this will also help deepen your understanding of death, while simultaneously growing you as a pastor.