When was the last time you attended the funeral service for a young person? The funeral home was most likely swarming with people of all ages—young, old, and middle aged. This is the typical pattern for such funeral scenes. However, it’s not terribly uncommon for you to walk into the funeral service for a 90-year old church member and find the funeral home nearly empty. Where is the disconnect? Where are all of the young people from this person’s local church? Sure, school is in session and work is not stopping for the majority of the church—but what message are we sending to our children when we check them out of school for the funeral service of a 16-year old who died in a car accident but we miss the funeral service of a 90-year old man who finished his course well for the glory of God?
In our present culture, it’s almost as if we expect the older generation to die—so attending their funeral isn’t really that important. As we consider such matters, I want to urge you to reconsider the importance of being present for the funeral service of older Christians in your local church. Sure, you may have to miss work and your children may have to miss some school on that particular day, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Children Need to Hear Godly Eulogies
Far too many funerals contain ungodly music, shallow meaningless stories, and often shower praises upon people who were rather ungodly and loved the world more than God. The word eulogy is derived from a Greek origin “eulogia” meaning praise. The English word means—high praise. Your children will attend far too many funerals that do not honor God and do not have Godly eulogies. Your children will witness people receiving high praise who certainly do not deserve it. Our culture is notorious about lavishing praises upon the dead even if they didn’t deserve it.
As young people grow up in our spiritually confused culture, they will hear people being praised and preached into heaven who had no desire for God in this life. With all of the confusion that abounds, young people need to hear solid eulogies that make sense (Rom. 12:2). They need to hear older people highly praised for a life well lived for the glory of God (Ps. 116:15). As they sit and hear good eulogies that are directly connected to verified lives of older saints who go before them in death—it builds up and strengthens their faith. The children in the local church need to hear examples of faithful saints who served and invested their lives in the ministries of the local church. They need to hear 1 Corinthians 6:11 testimonies that emphasize the past tense of loving sin contrasted with a present tense love for God that never ended.
Children Need to See Faithful Church Members Finish Well
Voddie Baucahm, in his book, Family Driven Faith, shared some startling statistics. He said, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.” There are many factors that lead to such tragic statistics, but one thing to remember is that children from a very early age need to witness older Christians finish their course well—persevering to the end in the faith (Phil. 1:6). Children will see too many people enter the church and drop out, fall away, and prove their faith wasn’t genuine (1 John 2:19). Young people need to see real Christianity put on display in relentless and faithful perseverance (Luke 13:24; Heb. 4:11).
Sure, it’s a horrible tragedy when a student is suddenly taken in a car accident. Such funerals are worthy of attending and can provide numerous teaching opportunities. However, consider the value of putting before your children faithful older Christians who refused to deny the faith, stayed the course to the end, and died as faithful followers of Jesus after walking with Jesus for many years. That’s worthy of missing a half a day of school—right? Young people who are bombarded with a constant stream of the trivial and temporary need examples of faithful people who looked beyond this life to a city whose maker and builder is God (Heb. 13:14; Heb. 11:10).
Children Need to Learn to Honor the Seniors
As a pastor, it grieves me to see many church plants that look like a Millennial coffee club rather than a local church. Where are the aged? Are they needed to plant churches too? Younger Christian parents—you want your children to have other examples to imitate in the faith besides you (1 Cor. 11:1; Heb. 6:12; Heb. 10:36). I’m afraid that we often devalue the older generation in our local churches. We place a great deal of emphasis on youth, young families, and reaching the younger generation while at the same time overlooking the goldmines of knowledge and wisdom who sit near us on the Lord’s Day during worship (Job 12:12). Sure, they style their hair differently (what hair they still have) and wear clothing that is not suitable for the younger generation, but they have a treasure chest of experience as older Christians to share with the church—if we allow them into our lives.
One way to teach the younger generation the importance of missing the second half of the school day to attend the funeral of an older church member is by spending time with such members before they die. Look for ways to teach young people to honor seniors beyond pressing them to read and understand 2 Kings 2:23-24. Look for opportunities to overlap in life, ministry, worship, and fellowship (see Titus 2). Consider bringing such church members into your home for lunch after church and providing intentional opportunities for your children to know the older generation in your church. Face it, when we want our children to excel in a specific sporting event—we often put good examples before them on YouTube or ESPN. We should desire for our children to learn to value the older Christians in our local church in such a way that they will cherish the opportunity of honoring them on the day of their funeral. The next time a 90-year old faithful Christian within your local church dies—take the day off and take your children to the funeral with you.