Live From NFDA: How Funeral Directors Can Fill The Void

This week the funeralOne team is down in Philadelphia for one of our favorite events of the year — the National Funeral Directors Convention. But this trade show is much different than anything you’ve seen from funeralOne before… we’re bringing the future of funerals to #NFDA2016 through virtual reality experiences, top-secret sneak peeks into what we’ve got lined up for 2017, and a giveaway that’s so mind-blowingly exciting that you’ll just have to come check it out it for yourself. (Booth #4205!)

But if you weren’t able to make it down to Philly for NFDA 2016, have no fear. We’re bringing our favorite moments of the conference right to you, through live blog, tweets and photos. Enjoy!

funeral directors

Each year we hear more and more about how families are beginning to place less value of the religious components of a funeral. I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself… where traditional funeral service, clergy and grieving families used to work seamlessly together, there is now a gap that has many funeral professionals scrambling, trying to piece all of the service elements back together.

So how can funeral directors fill this void left by the desire for non-religious funerals? That’s exactly what we went to find out at Jason Troyer and Lynn Gibson’s talk on Filling The Void: Why Funeral Directors Must Become Ritual Specialists.

“While clergy used to be an integral part of the funeral process, more and more families are not related to faith as much as they used to be,” said Troyer. This has created several gaps in the traditional funeral landscape… but also several opportunities for funeral directors to create meaningful experiences for their families that they may have never considered before:

1. Conduct the Funeral Service

More and more funeral professionals are being asked to speak at funeral services, either in a traditional format, or in a more celebratory manner as a funeral celebrant. “The new reality is, we need to work with faith communities for families who still want those services,” said Troyer. “But funeral directors also need to be the ones that come in and fill that void if they want something different. If you don’t claim that ground, your competitors will come in and do it for you.”

How to embrace this role: Many funeral professionals are now taking the necessary steps and classes to become funeral celebrants, so they can help lead families through funeral services, and even help make the entire funeral process more personalized and celebratory. If you are not able to get certified yourself, you could also partner with a local funeral celebrant in your town, so you always have someone on-call when your families want an alternative option for their loved one’s funeral.

Want to learn how you deliver better eulogies for your families’ celebration services? Check out this post → How Funeral Professionals Can Deliver Eulogies That Evoke Emotion

2. Provide Aftercare Help

Many funeral directors traditionally put a lot of the responsibility of the aftercare process into the role of the clergy when it came to working with a religious family. Clergy would already have a relationship with many of these families, they would check in with them in the days and weeks following the funeral, and they would be a go-to resources throughout the healing process. However, many families are now looking to funeral professionals as the complete resource for all things funerals, starting with the service and even going through to aftercare.

How to embrace this role: Not every funeral home has the resources to hire a full-time (or even part-time) aftercare specialist to help guide families through the healing process. We get it. Luckily there are many amazing online resources available to funeral homes and families that bring aftercare directly to you. For example, with f1Connect’s eAftercare, families can access tons of great grief and healing resources all from the comfort of their own home… and they have access to these resources anytime they need it, 24/7 To learn more about how you can get this eAftercare resource on your funeral home website, just click here.

3. Show the Value of your Funeral Home

“There are many people who view funerals as primarily a religious ritual,” said Troyer. For example, if a family member hasn’t been to a funeral service in decades, why would they come to a funeral home and have a member of the clergy conduct their loved one’s funeral? It’s this line of thinking that also leaves family members in a void, asking, “Do I even need a funeral?”

“There are now these new methods of competition for funeral directors,” Troyer said. “Families want food, a slideshow, a place to accommodate a lot of people… hotels can do that. They do that every day. But what they don’t have is the education, value and resources that funeral directors have. And this is where education needs to come into play.”

How to embrace this role: Funeral professionals can no longer rely on religious figures to tell families why a service or a burial is an important part of the funeral process. Now, it’s up to funeral homes to put that education at the front and center of their community, whether it’s on their website or even through their marketing methods. If you want to learn more about how you can use your website to better educate your families, check out this post.

This  isn’t the first time a big change like this has occurred in the funeral profession… and it won’t be the last. Funeral service is a constant evolving field, and as family’s needs evolve, communities grow and rituals change, funeral directors will be required to change the way that they approach and serve families.
How do you think that funeral professionals can better fill the void left by the changing funeral landscape? Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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  1. Allan Stearns

    I have become a Certified Celebrant, and also work part time in 3 funeral homes (corporate). The directors use me a lot. Over 50 this year alone. I trained each of them in the value of a service conducted by a celebrant. They recommend me whenever possible – but- I do not conduct funerals. I have dropped that traditional word and substituted Celebration of Life/Memorial Service 100% of the time.
    I ask permission to include a religious component in the services, if they want one. They all want at least a prayer and a blessing. I personalize each service after meeting with the family. I create a takeaway for each family, and it may be nothing more than a favorite poem I used in the service, framed and presented to the family at the conclusion of the service. Lastly, each service is 25 minutes, no more. The families appreciate brevity.

  2. Janet

    I’m wondering how funeral directors are seperating the charge of professional services with that of being the person who actually does the celebration. For example, I’m the arranging director and have reviewed the GPL with the Arrangement Fee of $…., NOW they want be to be the celebrant. Are you charging an additional fee, just as you would if you called someone else in???? If so, what is that fee?