Clergy and Funeral Director Relationship

Clergy and Funeral Director Relationship
Fred H. Kitchen

The Minister’s relationship with the Church families provides a unique opportunity to help those who are facing their own death, the death of a relative or friend, or simply someone with whom they have developed a bond of love. The Minister is automatically involved when death becomes a reality and the family must realize and face the grief and mourning for the loss of a loved one. At this time the Minister necessarily assumes the role of a non-licensed guidance counselor and must guide those of his parish with compassion and understanding. Often he is able to help others realize that they, themselves, have the ability to guide and counsel.

If the deceased has suffered a lingering illness prior to his death, the Minister often is able to establish a bond of trust and
rapport with family members, even those who are outside the realm of the Church family, enabling them to accept the Minister’s advice and counsel. Most Funeral directors in every community attempt to establish a working relationship with the Clergy. Some have misunderstood and confused the intent to be strictly mercenary.

The funeral director has a very important job to do, not only for the family of the deceased, but also to the community which he serves. He knows that the relationship with the Clergy is very important due to the trust that exists between Pastor and congregation; therefore, he strives for total cooperation with you, the Clergy. I have observed Clergy from all denominations enter the funeral home with an air of, ” I am in charge here.” What these Clergymen fail to understand is that when they display this behavior they only set themselves up for very little cooperation and guarantees themselves no future calls from the funeral director. The clergy and the funeral director need to have what I refer to as a “partnership-relationship.” Neither can provide
superior services for the families which they both serve without total cooperation from each other. For example, in the city where I reside if an individual dies who has very little or no religious preference, the funeral director usually has a dependable minister whom he calls to perform burial services; one who never fails to respond when the need arises. An effective Minister is always very sensitive to the needs of others and offers his cooperation so that the needs of the bereaved family are met.

What puts this particular Clergyman at the top of our list? His compassion and concern for the family, without regard to religious
affiliation, is what sets him apart from all the other members of the ministerial community. We as funeral directors look for ministers with whom we have an enjoyable working relationship and one who shows true compassion for others without any hope of remuneration. In addition we seek one who possesses a sincere desire to provide much-needed services.

In essence a minister’s life is one of service to others, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; likewise, the funeral director has a life that is of service to others at all times. We must treat each family according to their particular needs, not excluding others; therefore, our job as clergy or funeral director can often become very difficult. A true calling on our lives, however, always gives us the strength and understanding needed.

My advice to the clergy is that you unselfishly offer your services to the local funeral establishments if your are not already doing so. Stop by the office and introduce yourself and let it be known to them that you wish to make your services available if needed. It appears that an Apostolic clergyman is very rarely, if ever, called upon because they have not made themselves available.

Fred H. Kitchen is a licensed Funeral Director & Embalmer for the state of West Virginia.

He is contributing writer for three national funeral industry trade journals which are published throughout the United States.

He is also the son of a United Pentecostal Pastor and attends the Barboursville Apostolic church, Barboursville, WV.

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