The love of the church for its members and their families is severely tested when death occurs. Deacons and deaconesses can be a tremendous source of comfort during this time. The following are some basic duties that they can perform:

1. “Unless otherwise assigned, the head deaconess has the responsibility of sending flowers from the church to the family of the deceased member.

2. The deaconesses will plan food for the bereaved family on the day of the funeral. Determine the number of relatives expected, so that the needs will be met. Also, plan the most appropriate time to deliver the food. During these periods of grief, both deacons and deaconesses should visit the family as representatives of the church.”1

3. If the family is to be served at the church or some other facility, the deacons are to assist the deaconesses with setting up for the meal.

4. At the funeral, the deaconesses are to serve as flower bearers and the deacons as pall bearers if needed.

In addition to performing these basic duties, deacons and deaconesses should constantly seek ways to enhance their ministry to the bereaved. It is important that they become involved with the family at a personal level by providing support and consolation. One of the ways that this can be accomplished is by establishing a funeral committee. This committee should consist of deacons, deaconesses, and other interested church members. So that this committee can provide optimum service, its members must be knowledgeable about the resources and service providers in the community. It is important that they have a good relationship with these providers and be able to network with them.

When the coordinator of the funeral committee is made aware of a death, he or she should contact the pastor and the leaders of the following departments: elders, deacons, deaconesses, hospitality, clerks, ushers, audio-visual, music, nursery, etc. The coordinator will communicate information to these department leaders about the status of the family’s decisions concerning the time, date, and place of the funeral.

Based upon the needs of the family, the funeral committee will provide the following services:

1. A “Things to Do” list to prepare for a funeral.

2. A list of hotels for out-of-town relatives and guests.

3. A list of church members who are willing to house out-oftown relatives and guests.

4. Transportation for out-of-town relatives. Church members can pick up guests from airports and other travel facilities. When guests are ready to leave, provide return transportation for them.

On the day of the funeral, the funeral committee coordinator should designate a few committee members to arrive one hour prior to the viewing, to accomplish the following:

• Set up a room in which the family will meet prior to the service. Provide water, juice, cups, and tissues.

• Arrange for the minister to pray and share information with the family in the gathering room prior to the processional.

• Locate program participants and introduce them to the officiating minister.

• See that program participants have bulletins.

• Assist ushers in reserving pews in the sanctuary for the family and program participants. Place boxes of tissues in the pews where the family will be seated.

• Be available to serve as a messenger for the minister and the family.

• Ensure that arrangements for the meal have been made.

• See that a nurse and a physician are present to handle medical emergencies.

In carrying out the above services, be careful to follow trends in your locale and cooperate fully with the funeral directors and ministers.

The funeral committee coordinator should also assign at least two committee members to do follow-up with the family. The follow-up period may vary from 2-12 months, depending upon the need. It is extremely important to make contact with the family during holidays, on wedding anniversary dates, birthdays, and the anniversary of the person’s death. Contacts should be in the form of personal visits, telephone calls, and cards.

1 Manual for Church Officers, 100.

Vincent E. White, Sr., D.Min., is a retired pastor and author of The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model; The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model Workbook; and Problem Solvers and Soul Winners: A Handbook for Deacons and Deaconesses.