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Understanding the “Unchurched” and how Your Funeral Home Can Cater to Them

by | Sep 12, 2018 | Funeral Profession

Family together outside

The traditional funeral is evolving. One of the reasons has to do with the fact that Americans are — generally speaking — less religious than ever before. Religious rituals and beliefs shaped our traditional funerals in the past. But Americans today want more unique, personalized services instead. And as the NFDA found in a recent study, it’s something your funeral home should take seriously.

Secular Statistics

The Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study analyzed the current state of religion in the U.S. While they did find that most Americans believe in a God, they did find that:

  • 46% of Americans feel religion is only somewhat or not at all important in their life.
  • Attending a religious service is not all that important, with only 36% saying they attend at least once a week.
  • 45% don’t pray on a daily basis.

When it comes to religion and funerals, the NFDA found it’s at an all-time low. In 2012, close to 50% of those surveyed in the NFDA Consumer Awareness & Preferences Report said that religion was a very important component of a funeral.

Now, just 6 short years later, that number in 2018 is at 38.7%.

The NFDA said in a recent press release that as “families’ preferences continue to evolve, it is more important than ever for funeral directors to offer a variety of services to exceed their expectations.”

Celebrants and Secular Funerals

First and foremost, the NFDA recommends hiring or having a member of your staff training to become a certified celebrant. In their press release, they mention that with “fewer families incorporating religious rites into funeral and memorial services, many funeral directors see certified celebrants as a way to meet the needs of non-religious families and those who may see themselves as spiritual but are not affiliated with a particular church or religion.” And it’s one of the main reasons the organization is offering certified celebrant training.

Celebrants can work with the families and your funeral home to create personalized services that can meaningfully reflect the life of a loved one.

NFDA Director of Member Development Lacy Robinson, in a recent article of The Director said that, “a funeral celebrant is specially trained to offer an alternative to the traditional clergy-led funeral service. A bit like an emcee, a celebrant helps create a highly personalized service, incorporating the music, stories, experiences and memories that defined a person’s life.”

Other Ways to Cater to the Unchurched

Going beyond the celebrant, there are other ways your funeral home can cater to the “unchurched.”

For example, consider the following ideas:

  • Consider changing up the location. If your funeral home feels a bit too much like a chapel, ask the family if they’d like to choose a different location for the service or post-service reception.
  • Break up the traditional format by creating new rituals. Don’t be afraid to go completely outside of the box. It’s what today’s families want. Have a candle-lighting ceremony, an outdoor releasing ceremony, or a tree-planting ceremony. The ideas are endless once you start thinking in non-traditional ways.
  • Offer non-religious keepsakes. Going back to the article in The Director, Lacy Robinson mentions the importance of creating a memory and connection that ties us back to a memorial ceremony. “Mementos are a great way for attendees to be involved and stay connected,” Robinson said. For ideas and inspiration to create your own personalized mementos to offer families, download our guide on 101 ways to memorialize a loved one.

Is your funeral home ready to embrace the future? Find everything you need to succeed in our free eBook, How to Prepare Your Funeral Home for the Future.


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