Memorial Day is when we remember those veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice and are no longer with us. It’s definitely an opportunity to set the tone and care for our church communities well.
Knowing how to tackle National holidays in a church setting can be challenging, and figuring out how to do it well in a way that is right for your individual church can be another hurdle.
So how do you honor veterans in a church service during Memorial Day? Here are some considerations we recommend to get started.
First, A Quick Note…
Your average church member may not be aware that Memorial Day is not a day to publically honor living veterans, but those who have lost their lives. The veterans in attendance may feel uncomfortable or awkward if they’re recognized for their service on a day reserved for those who’ve lost their lives.
We want to lead by example and care for our military communities within our churches well. Guidelines you could share with the congregation may include showing appreciation in private conversations with veterans for their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice or personally thanking family members of those who have lost a loved one.
Commemorate With Visual Memorials
Sometimes the best way to show appreciation doesn’t involve words at all.
You may want to share suggestions with your Sunday school teachers and parents about having children create artwork such as paper flowers, American flags, etc. which can then be displayed at church that Sunday morning.
Creating a slideshow honoring those who have passed away creates a great visual memorial for all to see. Also, reading out loud the names of those who have passed followed by a brief moment of silence or the chime of a bell after each name is read aloud would be a special way to remember the fallen.
Music and Silence: Less is More
A Moment of Silence: Oftentimes, less is more. Focus on leaving time for moments of silence and reflection throughout the service, to give time for the processing of emotions.
Appropriate Music: Meaningful music specific to the holiday can be played when appropriate to assist in a time of reflection, remembrance, or otherwise silence.
Playing Taps: “Taps” following a moment of silence would be both appropriate and meaningful on Memorial Day. Even if an actual bugler is unavailable, a recording of “Taps” can still set the tone of the occasion.
Focus On Jesus’ Sacrifice
It’s impossible not to parallel the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ during a sermon on Memorial Day at church.
As we remember the sacrifice made by hundreds of thousands of soldiers we cannot help but remember that Jesus too laid down His life for us. In doing so, He fought to give us freedom in eternal life.
To the soldier, this kind of sacrifice is understood. We should never undermine how important it is to be thankful for both the soldier and the Savior for their willingness to give it all.
As it says in John 15:13 (ESV): “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Further Suggestions for Honoring Memorial Day at Church
Here are a few more suggestions specifically for the pastors of the church to consider:
Creating a Bulletin Insert: Create a bulletin insert with a short summary of Memorial Day and its history to give the congregation the background on why we celebrate the day.
Taking up Collections: If you have families experiencing financial challenges because of having lost a loved one in military service, consider taking a special collection to serve those families directly in your community, or to support a local or national ministry that cares for veteran families.
Suggesting Ways to Remember: Discuss biblical examples of memorial events, encouraging them to remember well by visiting a military memorial, museum, or monument; laying flowers on military graves; or attending a Memorial Day parade or ceremony.
Inviting the VFW: Invite the local Veterans of Foreign Wars to come and offer a brief ministry moment regarding Memorial Day. This could perhaps also involve them passing out red poppies, which, are emblematic of Memorial Day.
Honoring Families: A thoughtful gesture would be to have family members and friends of the fallen stand to be recognized and perhaps be given a gift as a token of the congregation’s appreciation. Consider some of the free Bible-based resources offered by the Armed Services Ministry to military families.
Final Thoughts for Church Leaders
As we come together on Memorial Day to remember our veterans for the most selfless sacrifices imaginable, we can also celebrate who they were as people. They too, were fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who had friends and family that they cherished. Let’s celebrate their character, their personalities, and their profound love for their country.
As long as we remember why we celebrate Memorial Day at church, the day can be both respectful and healing to all that participate. When we take the time to honor our fallen veterans and those still with us correctly, we truly show our thankfulness for the acts of service that ensure the liberties that all of us as Americans enjoy in our lives today.