Introduction

I’m sorry you are here. No one buys a book on how to do a funeral service or a memorial service unless someone has died.

You are stepping in front of a group of people who are two days after the hardest moment of their life and are having the saddest day of their lives, and you have to summarize someone’s life, give it meaning, and help people take their next step.

No pressure!

I don’t know who died, but I know you are committed to helping those who are left. And maybe you and I don’t have much time to talk here. After all, the service may be in a couple days.[1]

You may not feel qualified. You may not even be ordained. Here’s a secret: weddings need licensed clergy, funerals do not. And being ordained doesn’t guarantee you can bring the compassion and comfort to leading these services. Someone asked you. You can do this. Or better, we can.

If you are in a church tradition that gives you all the words, use those words. But if you are reading this book, all the words weren’t enough. And many books tell us how to do things with great authority. They say, “This is THE way.”

But you aren’t looking for THE way. You are looking for help to figure out YOUR way to do a service to honor someone.

And I want to give you that help.

With more than thirty years of helping people think, helping people communicate, and helping people sort through hard situations, I can offer you frameworks, options, and samples.

You’ll still have to do the hard work, of course. But this short book will help.

We’ll cover the service itself, starting fifteen minutes before and ending at the cemetery. We’ll talk about how to start, how to decide what goes in the middle, how to build a message, and how to finish the service.

We won’t talk about advance care planning or the advantages or disadvantages of the healthcare system or the funeral industry. Because at the moment, those don’t matter to the family and friends, not as much as having these moments to honor this person.

A couple things for you to know before we begin:

I’m a follower of Jesus, so I’m acknowledging God’s presence in life and death.

And I’m a big fan of Bob Goff, who puts his phone number at the back of his books.[2] I don’t have the courage to do that. However, here’s my email address: drjon@socialmediachaplain.com. After you read the book, if you are stuck about what to say, send me an email. I’ll do my best to get back to you as quickly as possible. That is, if I’m not at the hospital helping someone else in a difficult time.

Some of the templates in this book and supporting videos can be downloaded at socialmediachaplain.com/servicebook.

Thanks for getting this book. Let’s get started.


  1. Of course, you may be planning ahead or reading this as part of a class. Thanks. But I'm particularly hopeful that this is helpful in the moment of crisis.
  2. Bob Goff, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).

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