Saturday, June 18, 2016

Funeral Etiquette From A Pastor's Perspective.

Back a few years ago I posted a blog entitled "Wedding Etiquette From a Pastor's Perspective". This has and remains one of my most popular blogs (21,000+ reads). It addresses the fact that pastors, priests, etc. are very happy that you are getting married and most are happy to officiate it. However, a lot of time and energy goes into the planning process therefore the officiant ought to be compensated as such.

It would be my opinion that funerals are no different. I speak to both of these from the viewpoint of being a pastor that has officiated 30+ weddings and 20+ funerals. Perhaps this, like my last blog, can serve as a guideline on how to compensate a pastor officiating Aunt Ruth's funeral. 

It is never an easy time for a family when they lose that special someone. No one ought to take it lightly. In my experience it has been more difficult when someone passes suddenly versus a person that has been in a senior home or hospice. Still, not easy to cope with. It just happens that those who are struggling for weeks and months give us time to say our goodbyes and death is perhaps the ultimate healing for them. They no longer have to deal with their ailment and are united with their God in Heaven. 

During these times though we rely on clergy to officiate the funeral. Like the wedding, this is not something the officiant just does. It means homework and lots of it. Personally, when someone passes away, I meet with the family at the funeral home. Next I meet with the family at their home to hear the stories and take notes as they reminisce about the good memories. This leads to pages of note taking. Finally, I put the service together. Who is speaking when (eulogies)? What music do they want played at their funeral? Did they request a sermon/sermonette during their funeral service? All things the officiant must take into consideration. In many cases funerals don't happen at the most opportune time. This leads to moving schedules around. If the officiant has children, their is the expense of a babysitter. Perhaps multiple expenses for babysitters due to the meetings beforehand. I know in my experience it has meant pulling out of a few family weekend events leaving me at home while the family is encouraged to carry on without me. Funerals never have been and never will be a thing we just show up and talk at. It takes a lot of time. This is why I always am met with the compliment "I just love the personal touches you have put into the service." 

So how much do you pay clergy to officiate a funeral? I can tell you this should be considered. Most of the time the funeral home will roll the cost of the officiants cost into the final bill from the funeral home. This will usually be paid for out of the insurance that person had. If there was nothing set aside then it is out of pocket. I can tell you that a funeral I did, the honorarium was $50.00. With the amount of time I invested into this service, it came out to $4.00 per hour. Seems quite low for a person who had to bail on a family weekend to stay home and officiate. I suggest a minimum of $150.00. This is the minimum for anyone's time. If it is an officiant you have used over and over again, it would be suggested $200+. Again, this is for no other reason other than to show your appreciation for the officiant's time. Have you seen how much a Catholic priest charges let alone the usage of the building?! This is number I throw out is very conservative. 

I hope this serves as a guideline when it comes to the difficult question "what do I pay an officiant?". 

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