I’ve done a lot of funerals in my 30+ years in youth ministry. I wish I could say that Bible college and seminary adequately prepared me for the emotional drain that accompanies shepherding people thru their grief. It didn’t. Or, I didn’t fully pay attention. Doing funerals gets easier, but it’s never easy.

It sounds weird to have a favorite type of funeral, but when I do a funeral of a very old person who knew Jesus (like my mom), it’s definitely easier (at the end of my mom’s life, she actually wanted to die: “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”). My least favorite is when a young person has died.

Today, I spoke at one of those—a young person… whom I knew well. It sucks! While today was a public display of what Jesus does within a person’s life, it’s still hard to orchestrate the service, choose the right words, and maintain composure so you don’t cry thru the whole service.

After the service, I was speaking with some younger youth workers about the whole experience. One of them was brave enough to ask for my notes (“I know I’ll have to do a funeral some day, is there I chance I can look at your notes… especially your welcome. It really set the tone for the whole service”).

If this is helpful… steal it and make it your own. Here’s what I said (changing the names):

“Welcome: On behalf of the Smith Family… thank you for being here today. Your mere presence is a gift to this family! They may not be able to look each of you in the eyes today to say “thank you” but they will value your presence.

Presence is a big deal today!
The presence of friends, family & loved ones gathering together to remember an amazing young life… is a real gift.

Presence is a big deal!
The presence of God, who is in this place… not only in the general term, but the presence of God specifically resides in the lives of many who are gathered. This will sound new to some of you, but God, thru His presence, has taken up residence in those who have put their trust and faith in Jesus. In response to one’s faith, God infuses His presences into that individual.

Presence is a big deal!
Presence is a big deal today because Jason was one of those people. As a young man, Jason put his faith in Jesus… so right now Jason is in the presence of Jesus.

Presence is a big deal!
We gather to grieve the loss of a friend. We gather to support an amazing mom & dad & brother & sister… whose grief, most of us in here can’t even pretend to know. We have no words that are strong enough to fully heal the pain that we’re feeling. But, what we do have is our presence… and that’s what we can bring to the family today. We bring our heart, our love, our tears, and our joy… as we celebrate the life of your son… and your big brother.

So, in the next hour, our presence together will help create a worship service of singing, story-telling, slide shows, Scripture, prayer, tears, laughter and a hope-filled challenge. Again, your presence is a big deal… thank you. Let’s pray.”