For many people, a church is like a second family. And when one of those church members passes away—whether you were close friends or you hardly knew each other—you might want to do something special to remember that person.
But what can you do to pay respects and honor a deceased church member? There are many methods, both traditional and more unique, for remembering a loved one or a beloved member of the community. And you can use these methods whether the person passed away recently or years ago.
If you’re searching for a way to remember a late member of your church or religious organization, either alone or with the whole congregation, we have some ideas for you below.
1. Hold a Candlelight Vigil
One of the most popular ways to honor a departed member of the community is a candlelight vigil. When it’s held in memory of someone who’s passed away, it’s also known as a candlelight memorial.
To hold a candlelight memorial, you’ll just need enough candles for the congregation and anyone else who plans to attend. You can ask attendees to bring their own unscented candles, but it’s also a good idea to bring extras for those who forget.
You can hold the memorial anywhere, but they’re typically outdoors. Candlelight memorials usually take place somewhere that was special to the person. As part of the memorial, you can also have people write down memories of the departed before lighting their candles. You can collect these memories and give them to the departed’s family afterward.
2. Donate to a Cause
Many churches band together after a death to contribute to a meaningful cause. This cause might be raising the funds to fix up your church or provide other support for your organization. Or you might choose to donate to another organization altogether.
Consider what type of charity or cause the deceased person would have wanted to support when they are alive. You can also donate to charities that research or raise awareness for any condition the person had. For example, you could donate to a cancer research organization if the deceased died of cancer.
Another important cause you can raise funds for is supporting the family. Funerals are expensive, so often that a church congregation comes together to cover many of those costs.
You can support a cause financially, as mentioned above. But another option is to support a local charity or organization by volunteering.
You can volunteer in memory of a church member by cleaning up litter in your city’s parks, collecting food for your local food bank, and in many other ways. You can also volunteer with your church. Many churches already have ongoing charity projects, so it’s an easy way to donate your time.
You can volunteer in memory of a church member on your own, or you can recruit your friends, family members, and other members of the church to join you.
4. Create an Online Memorial
If you want to create a permanent space for people to remember a departed member of your church, you can create an online memorial.
Online memorials come in many shapes and sizes, but their main purpose is honoring loved ones who’ve passed away. An online memorial page can be a place for church members, family, and friends to write condolences and share their favorite memories. It can also be a useful tool for sharing information, like the date and time of an upcoming memorial activity or service.
Online memorials are perfect for church members because you can share all out of the contributions he or she made to the church. You can write about how they were a valued Sunday school teacher or a long-time member of the choir. And guests to the page can easily share what they loved most about the person.
5. Update the Church Directory
Many churches have a church directory, whether it’s online or in print. The church directory lists all of the active members of the congregation, as well as their notable contributions to the church.
When a member passes away, it’s necessary to update their entry in the church directory. Under their name (and photo if applicable), the church can write, “In loving memory,” or another message. This lets church members know that the person has passed away, and it honors their memory at the same time.
Some church directories even have an entire “In memory of” section, which has the photos and short bios of many late church members.
If you want to help update the church directory, you can ask the family if they would like any help designing a memorial entry. If the person doesn’t have family in the church, you’ll need to speak with whoever is in charge of your church’s directory (this varies from church to church).
6. Plant a Tree
Another way to give back in honor of a departed church member is by planting a tree in their memory. It’s a great way to create a lasting memorial, too.
If the church has grounds available for planting a tree, you may be able to do so on the property. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a suitable spot and decide where to plant the tree together with other members of the church.
To plant a tree as a memorial, all you need to do is purchase a sapling at a nearby nursery. Then, dig a hole and plant the tree. You can also place a memorial stone at the foot of the tree, designating it as a memorial to a specific person.
7. Send or Hand Out Memorial Cards
At the church meeting following the person’s death, you can hand out memorial cards. These are small fliers printed with the person’s photo, date of birth, date of death, and maybe their favorite scripture or another quote.
These memorial cards are handed out at the door as the congregation arrives, and it acts as a special type of obituary. It informs church members about the loss, and it provides answers to some of the questions they might have.
You can also include valuable information, like the web address of the online memorial page, donation information, or the time and place of the funeral service, on the cards.
8. Create a Memorial Garden
As an alternative to planting a tree, you could get the congregation together to plant a memorial garden. This can be an ongoing project that the church adds to whenever a member passes away.
You can plant a different type of flower for each person, as well as mark areas of the garden with memorial garden stones.
This is a great way to pay tribute to one member of the church, as well as members who pass away in the future. You can even plant flowers for church members who passed away before the garden was created.
9. Ask Your Minister to Read Their Favorite Scripture
Many church members have a piece of scripture they love the most. And often, that piece of scripture says a lot about the person’s personality and character.
If you want to honor a church member who passed away, you can ask the minister to read the person’s favorite passage during the service. The minister can mention why they’re reading that particular piece, and even say a few words in honor of the departed member of the church.
10. Have a Memorial Picnic
Sometimes, just spending time together with friends and family is a perfect way to remember someone who’s passed away. If the time of year is right, you can print out invitations for a memorial picnic in honor of the deceased church member.
You can ask church members to bring picnic dishes for a pot-luck style lunch, or you can have everyone contribute for catering.
At the picnic, take a moment to gather everyone together and just say thank you to everyone for attending in memory of the deceased.
11. Dedicate a Memorial Bench
In lieu of, or in addition to, a memorial tree or garden, you could donate a memorial bench. Memorial benches are popular for honoring important church members and those who contributed a great deal. But you can also dedicate a memorial bench to any member of the church who passes away.
As a way to honor more members of the church, you could dedicate a bench on the church or cemetery ground to multiple people or to all church members who passed away. And of course, it’s always a nice gesture to leave flowers, if the cemetery allows it.
12. Clean Up the Grave
Finally, you can remember a deceased church member by visiting their grave and cleaning it up. Bring a rake and lawn debris back for leaves and twigs, as well as a gentle cleanser and a rag. You can bring a small scrub brush to get into the fine details of the lettering, too, if you feel it may be necessary. You can also pick up some granite polish to make the stone shine like new.
Most cemeteries have groundskeepers and maintenance schedules that keep the headstones looking presentable. But visiting the grave and giving it some TLC is a way to show your care and compassion to a deceased member of the church.
Remembering a Church Member’s Death Anniversary
You can plan a memorial ceremony when the person passes away, or any time of the year after that. You could incorporate remembrances into holiday celebrations and weekly gatherings, too. But one of the best times to pay loving memory to anyone you’ve lost is on the person’s death anniversary.
A death anniversary can be a hard time for the deceased friends, family, and community. So it’s the perfect time to gather together in love and support. As a member of a church, you can get the congregation involved in a simple memorial service or just spend some quality time remembering the departed.