Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been a bit busy and even a little sad as our faith community and my own family have had to deal with two unexpected deaths. In both cases, the losses were sudden.

I’ve spent the last few years in full-time children’s ministry and I have had more funerals in the past 2 years than I can remember. As a pastoral leader, it’s part of my calling to offer comfort, support, and care for the families who are acutely affected by loss and tragedy. When I started out in ministry, I really did not know how to approach families in these tough situations. I avoided the few funerals that were held at our church and did very little pastoral care for those in the hospital (outside of kids). But then I learned something really valuable that I’d like to share with you.

A few years ago, I took a class in Pastoral Counseling for Children and Families and one thing our professor mentioned was that he prepared 7-8 different funeral services for different kinds of people: child, parent, relative, grandparent, etc… It was a brilliant idea. Instead of feeling awkward, I would be prepared. Instead of avoiding the situation, I could face it until I was comfortable. I could practice. So that is what I did. I prepared 7-8 funeral services for different kinds of people. I did not use any one those funeral services until my great aunt passed away a few weeks ago. And I was ready.

As it relates to pastoral counseling for the children’s and family minister, be prepared to help families deal with loss. Prepare services and messages. This kind of preparation will help you weave the Gospel into the services with poise and purpose. Meet with local funeral homes – they are seasoned professionals with training and loads of experience. Knowing these people will help you be prepared and provide the kind of care that families deserve without having to guess. You may not need those contacts or messages in the near future, but they will come in pretty handy when a family is in need down the road.