5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 3)

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Tom looks a lot like Santa Claus, plays the acoustic guitar a lot like James Taylor, and teaches children a lot like no one else.

A group of us from my church took a trip to West Africa and we were able to witness Tom’s amazing skills teaching local and global children about how special they were and how they were loved by God.

When we would walk through small villages, Tom would lead the way playing his guitar.

Children would appear out of nowhere, yelling, “Papa Noel! Papa Noel!” and before you knew it, the children were singing brand new songs, following their new found friend.

To say that Tom has a gift is an understatement.

To say that Tom was made by God to teach and invest in children is an obvious statement.

To say that Papa Noel’s joy and smile comes easy is about not knowing about the hole in his heart.

Five years ago, Tom lost his soul mate, the love of his life, his wife, a phenomenal teacher in her own right.

He lost her to cancer, a long, heroic fight that they fought together, and when she succumbed to the dreaded disease, Tom found himself exhausted, alone and wondering if life would ever make sense again.

He would tell you that there has never been a greater marriage.

And he would tell you that there has never been a greater pain.

To this day, every once in a while, I can see that look in Tom’s eyes, the twinkle in those baby blues is a little subdued, and I will put my arm as far around Papa Noel as I can.

I will ask him, “How are you today my friend?” and he will say, “It is a sad day. But I will be ok. My heart just hurts. And the sky is a little gray. But God is good.”

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries.

This is what my church’s funeral and grieving ministries look like:

The family and friends who have experienced loss will sit with staff and volunteers to plan the service with the church offering everything they need such as live music, pictures, DVD production, food planning and post grief share options.

When the service happens, all the family has to do is celebrate a life and grieve a loss.

They do not have to worry about any of the details, so they can be there in the moment with the freedom to mourn.

After the service, the family and friends move to our café where food is provided as people share a meal and tell more stories and the healing of sad hearts begins.

We have seen miracles happen in that café where family members who have not spoken in years for many reasons are reconnected and reconciled.

After the service is over, we offer a grief share class 52 weeks a year, where healthy grieving is learned and a new community of friendships are forged.

90% of our funerals are for people who are not connected to a church.

We charge nothing.

Oh, and by the way…every church should do this!

It is one of the most difficult and blessed things we do.

But let me warn you, Grace is messy!

And let me warn you, when a church begins to do this, it will never be the same…and you will never want to go back!

I remember meeting with some leaders from a church that wanted to start doing funerals.

They seemed eager to learn until we told them we do not charge.

You could see them add up the costs.

I told them, “It is called faith to do the right thing when you are not sure how it will work out.”

We also told them that some funerals get a little messy and raw.

We did a funeral several years ago for a family that lost a 43 year old father.

This family was a little rough around the edges and for the first time seeking God during this crises.

During the reception, with about 100 people eating, the family asked us if we could put in a DVD of some pictures they didn’t show during the service.

The DVD started with pictures of birthday parties, fishing trips and camping when all of a sudden a stripper at a bachelor party appeared on screen and we froze. (We now have a new policy: “Do not show pictures we haven’t looked at yet!”)

One of our young men volunteering in the kitchen, was sweeping, looked up, saw the picture, looked back down and kept sweeping. (Good job young man.)

Before we could do anything about it, the picture was gone and pictures of birthday parties, family gatherings and hunting trips appeared again.

Another one of our volunteers, in her seventies, saw the picture, and said, “Well, this is why we do what we do.”

I love her! She gets it.

I do not have time to tell you all the healing that has happened through our funeral and grieving ministries, but it is one of the most important things we do!

Last year we held 55 funerals.
This year we are on the same pace.

Every funeral brings heartbreak and healing. Hurt and hope. Loss and redemption.

It is a ministry very close to the heart of God.

I started this post by telling you about my friend Tom(Papa Noelle). The first time I met Papa Noelle was at his wife’s funeral at my church and now Tom is part of our church helping others heal.

I am a much, much better person because I know him.

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Check out tomorrow as I share part 4 of “5 Things Every Church Should Do.”

2 thoughts on “5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 3)

  1. Always challenging, Always inviting us to go far. The love of Christ presses us. Thank you Ken for strengthen Our faith.

  2. what a story of grace, I am always amazed at the people in this church. I have never known such love and compassion from so many. This church(my church) not only talks the talk but walk the walk which is more important, Thank You for such a hopefull blog.

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