In a recent
presentation a pastor described how he and his family
were sheltered in the arms of God during the loss of
their teenage granddaughter. During this time of
incredible personal loss and grief, my friend learned
some important lessons about ministering to others in
times of grief. I asked him to write down a few of the
lessons he learned during this pilgrimage. The following
is adapted from his notes, and I added a few ideas of my
Be there with the family.
Your personal presence is important. If a
family ever needs their pastor, they need him now. A
phone call isn't sufficient. Unless you are in a very
large church, no staff member can represent you in this
circumstance. Spend time with the grieving family.
Offer to help with necessary funeral
arrangements. You are a professional. This
family may have no idea how to plan a service. They may
need your help in relating to the funeral home.
Don't use trite religious statements.—
Scripture is comforting. The Holy Spirit can comfort in
ways we don't even understand. But trite statements
about how we should really be happy because our loved
one is with the Lord are inappropriate. The Scripture is
true. If the one who has died was a believer, he or she
is in heaven and with the Lord. This truth, however,
does not remove the genuine pain of missing a loved one
we won't see again until we die or the Lord returns. To
suggest that Christians should not grieve is
inappropriate and unscriptural (see 1 Thes. 4:13). We
sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.
Hug a lot.— Human touch is therapeutic. It
shows your concern and sensitivity. Be sure your hug is
appropriate, and express your genuine concern. In some
instances an appropriate hand on the shoulder or a warm
handshake is best.
Allow people to grieve
in their own way.— Some people are quiet;
others are expressive. Don't try to analyze, just love
them and be there for them. Some people need to cry. Let
them. Others need to talk. Listen. Some just need
someone to sit with them in silence.
prepared to be silent.— You may not need to say
very much. You should pray with them and be ready to
share appropriate and comforting Scriptures. But don't
feel that your words should make the pain go away. The
best ministry may be to sit in silence with them.
Mobilize the church to help in any possible
way.— The home may need cleaning or
straightening. Child care may help. Food may allow the
family freedom from day-to-day tasks such as cooking for
Relate to the family one month
after the funeral.— Pastoral ministry may be
needed most at this time. All the friends and relatives
are gone back home. Life is supposed to have returned to
normal. People expect more recovery than is possible.
During those quiet, lonely moments, the grieving person
may need you.
Send notes of encouragement
at six months.— Writing a note will only take
you a few moments, but it may be an enormous benefit to
a grieving church member.
Be available to
listen anytime.— Let the bereaved talk.
(Adapted, John W. Drakeford and Claude V. King,
WiseCounsel: Skills for Lay Counseling. (Nashville:
LifeWay Press ®, 1988).