Posted by Phil Loose on 24 February 2014

Insurance companies like to drop a little fear into the equation by getting us to think about what we might do 'IF the worst should happen.' The truth is less cagey. The truth is that when it comes to death, it's a matter of WHEN not IF. And that applies to worship leaders just as much as it does to midwives and members of the emergency services. Sooner or later, someone's going to ask you to lead worship at a funeral. And when they do, it's important that you're not left looking like a rabbit in the headlights.

 

1. Dress appropriately. 'Contemporary' worship churches often have a relaxed style, but funerals are not the time to do what you normally do. Mourners will dress to show respect for their loved one, and so should you, regardless of whether you knew them or not. Don't go over the top either, just show respect by choosing an outfit that will not draw any attention to yourself.

2. Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again. If you're a creative person then you are likely to experience a fair amount of empathy with the family of the deceased. You may find yourself getting quite emotional - and it's quite understandable. But you're there to lead, not fall apart and grieve, so rehearse the songs and be totally familiar with them. By doing this, you will at least feel less nervous about leading in this unusual environment.

3. Write down what you are going to say - don't rely on your usual ability to find the right words on the spot. The pressure of the moment and the need to get it right means that now is not the time to rely on your normal relaxed patter. Think about the right bible verse to mention before the songs or the right words to use. Write them down and have them in front of you. Better still, consider saying nothing and let the songs speak for themselves. As Ecclesiastes 3:7 says, there is a "time to be silent and a time to speak".

4. This is not a performance. This is a somber, respectful occasion. You do not need to show off, to impress anyone or craft a new arrangement. Make it easy on yourself and don't put yourself under pressure.

5. Think Mission! Remember that many people who come to the church will not be Christians. They may know some 'classic' hymns (normally Amazing Grace) but they won't know the new contemporary songs. Don't expect people to sing loudly at funerals, but try to give them at least one song they know well. Normally the family will let you know what songs or hymns they would like – if you don't know them, then get on and learn them. Again, this shows honour. With iTunes you can normally find a good version of any song to familiarize yourself. If you are asked to choose some songs, then make sure they make sense to the average person. For example, 'These are the days of Elijah' may mean something to someone well-versed in scripture, but to the man in the street it all sounds a bit odd. ALWAYS check your song choice with the family and avoid Christian jargon at all costs.

6. Always liaise directly with the family so that you know what they would like. You will feel far better about everything if you know you gave the family what they felt they wanted. Remember that you are there to serve them as well as help them celebrate their deceased relative.

7. Take a few tissues. You are not immune. Don't be caught out.

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