Thursday, July 5, 2012

Checklists in the Ministry

Earlier this year, I read this book review of The Checklist Manifesto. "Checklists seem able to defend everyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws." And this is really the major point. Checklists help people get done what needs to get done without as many mistakes.

Consider for example packing lists, grocery lists, recipes. These are just checklists. Now I could do all of these things without, but when I do I usually forget something. And that's what we're trying to avoid. We're trying to avoid missing something. We don't want to have to reinvent the wheel every time. So we make lists of what needs to be done.

There are some things that we do as pastors that can benefit from a checklist. This is one of the points behind Fr. Curtis's post on Concerning Pulpit Supply. Another of these things is funerals.

Funerals require a lot of components. And this can be difficult to remember because you can't always plan for when they are coming. A well-made checklist can relieve you of the stress that comes with the  thought: I hope I'm not forgetting anything. So here is a checklist that Fr. Christopher Seifferlein has made for funerals.

Part of his checklist includes what readings to use with the family at different stages and what to focus on. Having prefabbed sermon outlines like this can be very helpful for when you are on your way to visit the grieving family and you're thinking to yourself: "Um, what do I say? What am I going to talk about?" The LSB Agenda and the Pastoral Care Companion help a lot, but they don't do it all. You still have times when you're expected to say something that isn't from the book. So spend a few minutes now going through a few of the suggested texts for "At the Visitation," "For Those In Grief," etc, and put together a short outline of what you say when you visit them. (I have done this for hospital visits. I have something I do for my first visit, second, and then returning home, something for pre-surgery and post-surgery, etc. I don't always stick to it because I also use the propers for the week. But having it there takes the pressure off in case I get a midnight call or something.)

Anyway here is the list:

Funeral Checklist
Before Funeral Home
  • Pray for the deceased and for the family
  • Pull File and/or Church Records
  • Determine age of deceased:  ____
  • Arrange the ringing of the church bell
  • Call church organist to determine availability
  • Determine time and date of funeral home meeting: ________________
At Funeral Home
  • Readings & Prayer-Discuss the theological purpose of the funeral
Widow at Nain-Remembrance, Grief, Burial, Words of Christ (Why are we here, what are we here for, my role)
  • Determine the time and date of service:____________
  • Determine organist arrangements
  • Discuss placement of casket during visitation (narthex or at the front of the nave)
  • Determine how many pews to reserve on each side of church.
  • Explain Funeral Pall its use symbolism, request assistance from pall bearers if so desired
  • Determine cemetery where burial will take place
  • Discuss the families wishes regarding the desire to stay by the cemetery until the casket is lowered.
  • Request Favorite Hymn & Reading Selections from Family
  • Determine meal and menu arrangements.  Give name/# of individual to call for luncheon to funeral director
  • Determine the number of people expected for the service: ____
  • Determine the number of people expected for the luncheon: ____
After Funeral Home
  • Call Elders/arrange Elder(s) to assist with funeral
  • Call Head of Luncheon Committee (Carol Navis)
  • Call Cemetery Sexton (Bob Navis)
  • Call janitor and arrange for church to be cleaned before and after the service
In Preparation for Service
  • Determine Readings
  • Determine Hymns
  • Call and relate service information to organist
  • Complete Bulletin
  • Liturgy Preparation
  • Sermon Preparation
  • Prepare Wake Readings/Prayer-Theme: “Jesus In Remembrance of Me,” or “Upper Room.”
  • Prepare Pre-Service Readings/Prayer-Mary/Martha-Sustained by Jesus Words
On the day of the funeral
  • Meet with elder to go through the service: ringing of the bell at the beginning of the service, ringing of the bell at the end of the service  
  • Meet with organist to go through the service including the execution of the prelude/postlude
  • Meet with Funeral Director to go through the service including placement of the casket, funeral pall
  • Get out the funeral pall
After Funeral Service
  • Put Death Date in Computer
  • Put dates on computer to call the deceased
  • Fold up funeral pall
  • Put Funeral on Official Acts of the next Council Meeting

Use this as a starting point. Not every place is the same, so you will have to adjust it for your circumstances. But it's a great start. And the likely hood of you forgetting something, will be smaller.


  1. I have checklists for Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and weddings. I should have more.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Now that we have SMPs (Specific Ministry Pastors), why not also have OCPs (Obsessive Compulsive Pastors)? :)

  3. I concur. How about a checklist for new pastors? I suppose that's an "everything that goes on at/in/with a church" checklist. Also, a "the whole counsel of God" checklist to consider your preaching throughout the year.


Comments are moderated. Neither spam, vulgarity, comments that are insulting, slanderous or otherwise unbefitting of Christian dignity nor anonymous posts will be published.