How to write a sympathy note in the church bulletin

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While death is celebrated in many religious circles as a rite of passage into the next life, family members and close friends of the deceased will still grieve for their loss.

Include a brief sympathy note in your next church bulletin to notify the congregation of the loss, as well as to offer your condolences and prayers to the family.

Acknowledge the issue but don't give too many details. For example, announce that "Betty Jo has passed," but don't get into details about a long struggle with cancer or alcohol abuse. If in doubt, contact the spouse or child of the deceased to ask how much information the family is comfortable sharing with the congregation.

Offer your condolences. (See Reference 2.) Remind the grieving family that the congregation mourns with them and that you will be praying for them during this difficult time.

Keep the note short. (See Reference 1.) Aside from the issue of space in a church bulletin, a lengthy letter is not necessary to convey your sympathy for the grieving family. Announce the death of the person and extend your deepest condolences to the family.

Avoid comments about the spiritual state of the deceased. While the loss of a relative or friend who is part of another religion is difficult, comments about the person's spiritual status may make the situation even more painful for relatives.

State the family's preference for gifts. Some grieving families enjoy receiving meals or flowers, while others prefer to have a donation made to a charity in honour of the deceased. If the family would like monetary donations to help with funeral costs, state this at the end of the note.

Offer a short scripture reference for the family. If the deceased had a favourite verse, select this, or choose a passage you feel characterises the loved one who passed. If room does not permit for you to share the actual passage, simply print the reference so readers can look up the verses later.