Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 1

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. -Psalm 116:15 

Several years ago I led our church is a study on Wednesday nights on “Preparing an Obituary.” It was very well received. It gave me the opportunity to teach a few things I’ve learned through my years of pastoring a Baptist church and preaching a number of funerals. It even gave the opportunity to laugh at ourselves and others when that couldn’t be done at the time of a funeral. It can be good to discuss a matter before you’re too emotionally involved. So this series of articles covers some of these issues.

Many have never considered writing an obituary until someone unexpectedly dies. They then have very little time to gather their information and often important information is neglected.

Much of this can be done ahead of time.

When the time comes, you will want to get this information as soon as possible to the Funeral Home, newspapers, etc.

Keep this information in an easy to find place. Make a couple of copies to give to other family members.

Do not write in all italics or all capitals; this makes it difficult to read.

After the funeral, keep copies of obituary for historical reasons. Always include or add name of newspaper, city, state, and date of newspaper obituary.

Keep the basic newspaper obituary fairly brief. Make it too long and people just stop reading.

Make things plain and easy to understand. Assume that many who read it will not know inside information with which you may be familiar. Make it so someone who never knew the deceased will understand the facts and details. Write in such a way that someone will understand if they read the obituary 100 years in the future.

You may want to make a more extensive obituary to just distribute to close family and friends. In this, include as much more information as you like to keep for a family history. You could also send this to a local historical library, etc. You may want to post it on a genealogy site on the internet.

Basics of an Obituary
Include the following if applicable:

1. Full Name:

2. Nickname, name, or initials they went by; in quotation marks or parenthesis.

3. Maiden Name:

4. Residence: (city, town, county, state)

5. Date of Birth: (month, day, full year)

6. Place of Birth: (town, state, county, country)

7. Date of Death: (month, day, full year)

8. Place of Death: (city, town, state)

9. Age:

10. Where they lived.

11. Place of Funeral Service:

12. Date of Funeral Service:

13. Time of Service:

14. Interment: (Burial site. Include town or county, state)

15. Officiating Minister / Clergyman (full name, title, church, city.)

16. Church Affiliation (complete name and mailing address of church; some may want to send a memorial donation.)

17. Occupation

18. Military

19. Affiliations / Education / Accomplishments

20. Preceded in Death: (parents, spouse, children, siblings)

21. Survived By: (name & residence: parents, spouse, children, siblings; grand children, nieces, nephews, etc. You may choose to just include the number of great grandchildren, etc.)

22. Arrangements by what Funeral Home (name, city, state)

23. Visitation: (Place, date, times; usually the evening before the funeral.)

24. Have a photo ready for newspapers, etc. Write name, address, dates on back of photo so those who did not know him will know who it is.

As soon as possible, contact those you wish to participate in the Memorial Service. Don’t expect the pastor and others to automatically know you want them; ask them. This way they can also inform you early, if they have a conflict with the time of the funeral service. 

If the deceased was a preacher, missionary, church staff, make sure you send the information to your Baptist State Paper and any schools from which they graduated. Ask them to publish it in the appropriate column. In addition, you may want to have the obituary published in newspapers where they were born or formerly lived.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 7, AD 2012.

To be continued. 

Other Articles:
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 2 of 3
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 3 of 3
More articles in lower right margin.


  1. David, this was interesting! It's odd that many persons don't want to talk about one of life's certainties: death. Of course, the Lord could come back for us before we die. But maybe he won't. So, we should talk about it and prepare for it. It's a good sermon/Bible study theme. I look forward to reading your next postings on the subject.

  2. Bruce,
    Thanks. We had an interesting time discussing this in church. But some folks just can't bring themselves to deal with writing an obituary ahead of time. Others, it doesn't bother at all.

    But maybe this series can help either group to not forget a few matters. I've also given a written summary of this to some just after a death but before they had written an obituary. It has been a real help to some of them.

    I heard of one preacher who had made such good preparations, he said all he needed to do was die.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. Great informative site. I'm really impressed after reading this blog post. I really appreciate the time and effort you spend to share this with us! free memorial pages


What do you think?