If you read this blog regularly, you know Pam and I have been faced with grief the past few weeks. In those weeks, though, we’ve been reminded of the power of believers doing ministry. Based on our recent experiences and my years of pastoral ministry, here are some thoughts about ministering in times of death.
- Pray a lot for the family. I’ve learned that, “We’ve felt your prayers” are more than just words we’re supposed to say. They’re truth.
- Take initiative to do something to minister to the hurting. If you assume someone else is doing something, you may be wrong. A hurting family can fall through the cracks.
- Coordinate meals for the family. They may not feel like eating, but they’re more likely to eat if food’s already prepared and available.
- Offer housing for out-of-town family. Many folks may not feel comfortable taking the offer, but simply making the offer says, “We’re trying to think of any way we can help you in this difficult time.”
- Write a note. I’ve been surprised by how much notes and cards mean to a hurting family. Having them to look at days after the funeral can bring much needed comfort.
- If you’re in the area, attend the visitation and/or the funeral. At her mom’s funeral, Pam and I saw friends we’ve not seen in years – but their presence meant the world to us. Even a few minutes of conversation in the midst of many conversations can be wonderful.
- Don’t launch into your own stories of grief. A simple, “We understand, because we’ve been there” is okay. “Let me tell you how my loved one died and how we endured it” usually isn’t.
- Offer childcare as needed. If possible, take care of children in their homes while their parents take care of critical matters. Give the kids some sense of routine when everything else is disrupted.
- Consider other ways to minister to families for a few weeks. At this time of year, the grass needs to be cut. Cars need to be washed. Homes might need a cleaning, especially if someone has been sick for some time. At least offer to help in unique ways.
- Write the death date on your calendar. I know that sounds like a morbid step, but you can write a note of prayer next year. The family will know that date, but most others will not. Show special care by remembering.
What would you add to this list, especially if you’ve faced grief? What is your church doing that is unique?