Asking to speak at a funeral, some people find to be one of the more difficult challenges of ministry; I however, find it to be very rewarding in many ways. Time permits me from writing about them extensively, but I have been asked to preach at many funerals (even my dad's). I find it to be such a blessing when a family invites me to preside over a funeral or memorial service and it really is such a wonderful honor. Being invited into a family's home at their time of deep grief is also a great trust and intimate connection. I have a special gift to prepare for and handle funerals with grace, care, sensitivity, empathy, and much wisdom that is absolutely necessary, which builds deep and lasting friendships.
What I like to do, if it is at all possible, is first meet with the family and friends of the dearly departed to listen. This is the first step of a communal attempt to remember and grieve a life, and my presence often helps assist with this process. I show up with a listening posture rather than a 'ministering' one.
When I meet with the family and friends, I never go in thinking, "What am I going to say?" I go in with the frame of mind looking to gather stories and memories. I want to really get to know "who" the individual really was and "what" they really meant to all that are there. I want to know all about his or her preferences, joys, sense of humor, and even their faults, but in a natural way. Often, when I am present, these stories will just start coming out, and I can simply sit back and give the family and friends a time of remembrance. Sure, there are many tears of sorrow, but at times, with some of the stories that are shared, there are many tears from laughter. Usually it will be from someone who begins a sentence with, "Do you remember that time, when (insert name here)...?"
I take notes on some of the stories and memories that may be helpful for the funeral service. I do believe, whole heartedly, that funeral service planning is one of the most important ministries I can provide. I often find that spending time with the family and friends beforehand, gathering notes, and such, really gives a personalized texture to the funeral service. The funeral service should have elements both of lament and celebration and I am in tune looking for both in these meetings. These gatherings often end up guiding the service, and way too often, they become the sermon themselves.
I am also looking to see if the family and friends are interested in playing parts in the funeral service. I help with determining roles and responsibilities, such as if anyone would be interested in managing the often difficult task of giving a eulogy, reading the obituary, perhaps singing a special song, a poem, reading a favorite Bible verse, or even writing and reading or saying from the heart, something special during the service.
A funeral home usually asks the family the day of the funeral who would want to have the honor of being pall bearers. I usually bring it up at these meetings, because this detail is often overlooked and grieving family members might need help remembering that this is something that they might have to do.
I then offer my sincere condolences, pray with the gathering if it is desired, and leave feeling very honored and blessed for the time spent with them. I go home, I pray, choose Scriptures that fits the life of the deceased best, and usually search for metaphors or a sense of tone to the life of the person with my notes and remembrance of the meeting.
Most importantly, I match the lived life of the deceased person with fitting Scriptures that help move from grief to hope. I have preached at enough funerals and gathered a collection of Scriptures that I often turn to. I have them in a file and find the most appropriate ones for each person. I often find that they "speak" in a new way, in light of the current person who has passed away.
The day of the funeral is filled with many emotions for all who are there. The sermon I come up with will make people laugh, cry, and more importantly be a message of hope. It is a time of remembrance of the life that they lived, no matter how long or short it was.
I enjoy very much preaching at funerals, which may sound a bit bizarre, but offering comfort, hope, and a shoulder to cry on for people who are deeply grieving is a gift that I use well.
Gift for Gift Program
I take great pride in creating a "personalized funeral service," and I have always had nothing but great things said about me by a family who has used me and my services. Most of the funerals I have done were from referrals, which is great!
Charging money has always been such a painful task for me to decide; how do you charge money to preach at a funeral?
When I first started doing funeral services, I only asked for a "love offering," or a "gift" with no set charge. After awhile, I saw myself spending more money to preach at a funeral service than actually leaving with any "love offering" or "gift" at all. The offering of love was only a one way street and I was paying for it dearly. This is because of the time that it takes for me to write up a personalized sermon (usually with not much time given to do it), meeting with family and friends beforehand, driving, using gas, paying tolls, taking a vacation day or missing a days pay from my regular 40 hour a week job. It was just costing me too much money and time. With all that being said, I now have set a Gift for Gift Program.
In exchange for my gift to you for making myself available to serve you, you are giving me a gift in return:
* $ 200.00 - Funeral
* Anything outside of a 25 mile radius from where I live there will be an additional gift of .40 cents per mile and all toll charges.
This is not tax deductible.
I am not doing a service for a church.
This is not an offering or a donation
This is not a charge or a fee for a service
I am a ministry providing a gift for you, in return for a gift for me.
I cannot accept credit or debit cards
I can only either accept cash or a check.
Checks can be made out to:
Pay to the order of: William H Schnakenberg IV
I require half of the gift upon our initial meeting, all if possible, and the rest of the gift at the funeral service.
*It is understood that situations arise in which some flexibility might be appropriate.
In exchange for your gift to me, I will give you your gift of:
* Preach at the funeral
* Time and labor
* Initial meeting in person
* Additional biblical grief counseling upon request
If I can help in anyway, please let me know as soon as possible, so I can check my schedule accordingly.