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How to Structure a Funeral or Memorial Service

funeral service outline

Being a pastor is a sacred duty in which you find yourself present at both the highest and the lowest points in the lives of the people of your community. 

Pastors are one of the first to the hospital when a new baby is born, and they often stand at the altar beside new grooms and brides. But they are also among the first to the hospital during a medical emergency, a terminal illness, sudden death, and more memorial services than they would care to count. 

Preparing to officiate a funeral or memorial service can feel like a daunting task, particularly when you understand that the family of the deceased is looking to you not only for comfort, but guidance and wisdom in planning a fitting memorial. Work with Sorensen Funeral Home for assistance you need to plan a cremation, click to find out more about the company.

During this time of grief, one of the most important things you can do is to simply be there for the family. Express sympathy and empathy for their moments of tears. Listen well. If you personally knew the loved one who has passed away, share about your mutual affection for them.


As for the funeral service outline, it need not be complicated. While some families have particular elements they wish to be included in the service, many look to their pastor to provide the overall framework. 

Below is a funeral service outline that I was given by a pastor who mentored me. After decades of pastoral ministry and countless memorial services, he was nothing short of masterful when it came to planning and officiating a funeral. 

What he taught me, I pass along to you. 

Funeral Service Outline

Opening Welcome and Prayer

During the opening and welcome, introduce yourself and thank everybody who is in attendance for coming to celebrate the memory of their lost loved one. 

Assure everyone that it is okay to feel strong emotions and to express those emotions through tears. Also assure them, particularly in the instance of someone who has lived a long and full life, that it is also okay to laugh and smile as they remember the affection they had for someone who has now passed away. 

Make your prayer short and comforting.

Scripture Reading 

The public reading of Scripture has a way of calming and reassuring the souls of the people who hear it, even if those people aren’t necessarily Christians or even people of faith. For those who do follow Jesus, sometimes the familiar words of well-worn passages can bring an immense amount of comfort.

As the officiant, you may do the Scripture reading yourself, or you may opt to include another pastor on your staff, a leader, or a loved one of the deceased.