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How to Hold a Church Funeral

Church funerals are an important part of the grieving process and often offer comfort to those who have lost a loved one. They provide support, understanding, and closure for families and friends. Knowing what church funeral services typically involve and the church funeral policy can help you better prepare for such an event, especially if you're looking to have a traditional service.

Can I hold a funeral service in a church I don’t belong to?

This depends entirely on the church where you're thinking of having the service. Some churches will allow non-members to use their facilities for church funeral services, while others are very strict about who can and cannot have a funeral using their facilities. You should check with the church you're thinking of beforehand and be explicit about whether or not you're a member of their congregation before planning a funeral. Most (if not all) churches would allow a funeral service at the church if the deceased was a member, but it’s always good to check.

Following are some steps to help you get started with planning a church funeral.

Step 1: Contact your church's administration

The church staff will likely provide you with information regarding church funeral services, church funeral policy and rules (such as fees, the maximum amount of time you can rent the church's hall out, and other important notes), and church funeral songs.

If you're wondering how much to pay the church for a funeral, you may be surprised to learn that church funerals are typically free for members. In general, it's uncommon for churches to charge members of their church for funeral services held at the church. However, it is common to provide a donation to the church, which is generally around $50 - $500.

Before holding a church service, you should ask a few questions to make sure you and your church are on the same page. Every church is unique and may have different policies, so it's important to review the church's funeral policy (if they have one) before making any decisions.

Questions you should ask your church administration include:

  • What is the church's funeral procedure?
  • Do I need to pay for church funeral services?
  • Is there a capacity limit?
  • What type of paperwork do I need to sign or complete?
  • Is there a time limit on the service?
  • Who will conduct the service?
  • Does the church provide church funeral songs or do I need to provide my own?
  • What is the church’s current availability for when I can hold services?

It's important to review church funeral policy with your church administrators before the service in order to ensure that all expectations are met.

Step 2: Meet with your religious leader

Depending on your church, your religion and your preferences, meeting with your religious leader can be an important step in the funeral planning process. Some folks would like their church to play a less central role in the church funeral service. In this case, a religious leader may still be involved in the church funeral service in some capacity (such as offering a closing prayer), but they will not direct the church funeral service itself. In other cases, you may prefer to have the church as a central part of the funeral service, in which a religious leader will direct the service, as well as provide church funeral songs, readings, and prayers.

If you're holding a Catholic service, it's a good idea to ask your religious leader about the options when it comes to mass. Families may prefer to hold a Catholic funeral service either with or without a mass -- this depends on the preferences of the deceased and the family. It's possible to hold a Catholic memorial service or funeral service without mass, but this would be something you'd want to coordinate closely on with your church and religious leader. It's also important to consider the wishes of the deceased when it comes to church funeral services.

When you meet with your church's religious leader, be sure to ask about church funeral songs and other important points such as readings. Your church may have some predetermined funeral songs already, or the religious leader can help guide you in finding appropriate music for the service.

Once you've discussed everything, it's a good idea to put your choices in writing so that everyone is on the same page. This will help ensure that all expectations are met and nothing is forgotten during the church funeral service.

Step 4: Plan the order of service

The order of service is an important element of church funeral services. This will inform church members and attendees what to expect throughout the ceremony. It will also provide structure and guidance to you as you create your church funeral service.

A typical church funeral order of service may include:

  • An opening prayer or hymn
  • Opening remarks from the officiant
  • Reading of scriptures or church funeral songs
  • Eulogy by family members, friends, and/or clergy
  • Reflection time for church members and attendees
  • Closing remarks from the officiant
  • Final church funeral song or hymn
  • A closing prayer.

A traditional Catholic or Christian funeral service and burial typically includes certain religious elements at the burial site, as well.

Step 5: Prepare for the church funeral service

Once you have chosen funeral songs, planned your order of service and identified an officiant or church leader to lead the church funeral service, it's time to begin preparing for the church funeral service. Depending on whether you are having a traditional catholic or Christian funeral or another type of religious ceremony, you may need to prepare additional items.

Preparing for a funeral service can include accomplishing tasks like:

  • Creating a memorial website as a one-stop place to provide church members and attendees with service information
  • Gathering funeral service materials, such as funeral programs and hymnals
  • Creating funeral video presentations or slideshows, if desired
  • Setting up live streaming equipment for those who prefer to attend virtually
  • Selecting individuals who will be participating in the service (such as the eulogist, pallbearers, and other participants)
  • Finding an event venue for a post-service reception
  • Sending out invitations and alerting folks to any important information regarding the service (this is easily done via a memorial website)

By accomplishing these tasks, you can ensure that your church funeral service is properly prepared and goes smoothly.

Step 6: Hold the funeral service

A church funeral service provides church members and attendees a space to grieve, remember the deceased, and celebrate their life. If the service has been well organized in advance, you and other family members should be able to focus on the service itself, not on logistics, during the event.

The funeral service is an important part of honoring the life of the deceased and providing church members and attendees a space to grieve. It's important to ensure that church funeral services are conducted with respect for church beliefs, customs, and traditions.

If you're in charge of planning a funeral service, creating a memorial website is an excellent way to manage all of your responsibilities. Memorial websites let you share event information, invite attendees, manage RSVPs and even livestream church funeral services -- all for free!

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Last updated January 23, 2023
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