John Duncan, PhD, is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Jasper, Indiana, United States.

I have never forgotten the words a dear woman shared with me after the loss of her mother. “What do I do after the potato salad is gone?” She was very appreciative of all her church family who came and ministered to her at the funeral, but now that all the rush was over, she wondered how she would cope.

These tearful words caused me to stop and consider how we do grief ministry as a local congregation. Most pastors and churches are very good about ministering to grieving members during the funeral and initial time of mourning. However, we often return to business as usual once the funeral is over, surmising that life goes on.

Most pastors and churches are very good about ministering to grieving members during the funeral and initial time of mourning. However, we often return to business as usual once the funeral is over, surmising that life goes on.

While life does, indeed, go on for the pastor and congregation, it often remains at a standstill for the one(s) mourning. For the one(s) experiencing loss, just facing another day can be a herculean task. If the church is truly to be the body of Christ and bear the image of Christ to one another, then we must do a better job of ministering to those who are broken over the losses and disappointments in life.

To accomplish this task, the church can take several steps to minister more effectively to those grieving:

Be proactive in your ministry efforts. Do not tell the grieving member to call you if they need anything. They are facing so much pain and loss that they will never call you, nor should they have to call you to receive ministry. The church must reach out to the grieving by visiting and calling them.

Be an encourager in your ministry efforts. When you go to visit with them, be very attentive to their words. Do not be quick to speak; instead, be quick to listen. Often what the grieving person really needs is to know that someone cares and will laugh and cry with them. They need to know that God still cares, and we represent God to them.

Be intentional in your ministry efforts. When someone in the church has experienced a loss, it must become the most important matter on your schedule. They need to see Jesus in us. Church staff must schedule regular visits to the one who is grieving.

Be focused in your ministry efforts. When you make your visit, send your cards, or make your phone calls, have a purpose in your efforts. We are trying to bear the image of Christ to those grieving, so encourage them from God’s Word (no platitudes), pray with them about their greatest challenges and fears (gained from active listening), and schedule a time to follow up with them to serve them in some manner.

Be ongoing in your ministry efforts. There is no timetable as to how long you need to continue this ministry. We minister to them, build relationships with them, listen to them, and cry with them until they begin to experience wholeness. During our times of ministering to them, we seek to gradually involve them in ministry efforts. We may begin slowly by inviting them to a small group, a recovery group, or a luncheon. As they begin to experience healing, we may encourage them to go with us as we go to sit with another grieving member as we encourage them together.

The church is full of grieving members. All too often, the church is the loneliest place in the world for those who are hurting. We are the body of Christ. We are called upon to bear the image of Christ to our family, church, and the world. One of the best ways to start is by being Christ to those hurting within our church. When the potato salad is gone, I hope Jesus continues to show up . . . in you and me.


Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
John Duncan, PhD, is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Jasper, Indiana, United States.

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Healthy and Happy Family - Skyscraper 160x600