A book for when you need to lead a funeral or memorial service

Two years ago, I published Giving a Life Meaning: How to Lead Funerals, Memorial Services, and Celebrations of Life to help people lead funerals, memorial services, and celebrations of life. Two weeks later, those gatherings were disrupted. It felt like really bad timing.

I wondered whether I needed to rewrite it for online services or whether there would be gatherings again. And I knew that the lack of gatherings was magnifying the grief we were experiencing.

As yet, I’ve not rewritten it, though sometime soon there will be some small updates happening. As it is, it seems useful.

During the last two years, a couple hundred copies have sold. I’m grateful. I’m also grateful that every couple weeks, someone gets it on Kindle Unlimited and apparently reads the whole thing through at once. What I’m guessing is that someone is getting ready for a service and read it through looking for ideas and help. That is the kind of helpful I wanted to be.

This is the book I use when I lead services. If you know someone who could use the resource, I’d be grateful if you share this.


No one buys a book on how to do a funeral service or a memorial service unless someone else 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. You have to summarize someone’s life, give it meaning, and help people take their next step.

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.

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. This book gives you that help. 

Based on more than thirty years of helping people communicate, of helping people think, of helping people sort through hard situations, this book offers frameworks, options, and samples. It covers 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.

There is an extensive chapter on services for infants and several samples of messages, a few checklists, and as much encouragement as can fit in a small book for a tough time.

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