Re-evaluating the Funeral . . moving away from religion
There is not only a lot of talk lately about the funeral, memorial service, and celebrations that families are contemplating in the future for themselves and their loved ones, but there is also a lot of investment money being spent on companies who want to be on the upside swing of what these people choose. There is an old saying that if you want to know what is happening “follow the money”.
Back when I started in this business in the 1980s, in almost all cases, religion dictated what services would be held for certain individuals. We not only now live in an age of less religious affiliation, but we live in a world of growing death care options as well.
And, that investment money may be showing us what is happening and where the money managers feel death care is going. One of those investment draws is companies in the death care “celebration” business.
It is interested to be living in these times and be on the sidelines while one sees the choices different people make. Within the last year, British company Memoria conducted a survey that demonstrated that a full 50% of British people wanted a “Celebration” type of service. And, about 60% of that grouping wanted no “Religious content” in the service compared to about 40% who wanted “Some Religious Content” in their choice of “Celebration” service.
To continue with choices, 20% of Brits wanted “Traditional Religious Services” and 13% of Brits wanted no services at all. If you extrapolate all of those numbers, only about 41% of citizens who were surveyed in Great Britain wanted “any type of services” that included a religious component. There is no doubt that number will have an effect on the death care business. . . . and I’m guessing when you look at the decline in church attendance in America, the United States numbers for death care service choices would be very similar to those numbers.
There is no doubt that American society has moved more in the last 40 years to a society where “Options” and “Non-Comformity” is no longer frowned upon and the pressure of “complying with society” is easing. We will all have our own viewpoints on this, but I believe that there is a consensus feeling that the generations from “The Greatest Generation” to “Generation Z (ages 11 to 28)” have different societal viewpoints. That is certainly true in church attendance and membership.
It is apparent that those societal groupings have changed their viewpoint on death care services, not only in disposition method from burial to cremation and now even more options, but have changed their ritual of honoring or paying tribute to the life that was lived as well. In retrospect you can virtually see the changes from the Greatest Generation to the Silent Generation and on to the Baby Boomer Generation. And, we are beginning to see even bigger changes as Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z, and even when the youngest in Gen Alpha help with the decision making process.
As “conformity to society” has eased in all types of choices, so has conformity to religious traditions eased in the tribute to lives lived. From my point of view, religious traditions formerly “tied” client families to their death care choices. As you can see from the attached graphic, church attendance has waned and it is believed that it will continue that trend which frees death care clientele families to choose other options. Again, from my point of view, this will continue.
Here’s a couple of movements I’ve noticed over the past couple of decades. . .and I believe that these movements will continue:
- Celebration of a Life services replacing traditional religious funeral services
- Secular focused services replacing religious conforming services
- A “Respect for the Individual” service philosophy over a “Respect for God” service philosophy
- A move towards “individualization” services and away from “ritual” services
These types of attitudes and services will, and already have, affected traditional funeral homes and in many cases a traditional funeral home’s ignorance in knowing and accepting that they are happening are affecting that funeral home’s ability to draw clientele. That has spawned a movement in the death care celebration business and the death care doula business and will continue to do so.
A lot of people in the death care business look at the opening of celebration businesses as an attack on traditional funeral homes. I look on it, however, as the money managers and venture capitalists do. That is to provide a service to a clientele who may feel abandoned by their traditional funeral homes as to their individual choice of services.
If I was still in the traditional funeral home business I might be listening to a musician whose music spanned differing generations. . . .wasn’t it Bob Dylan who sang “The Times. . they are a-changin”
Related — Bob Dylan lyrics — “The Times they are a-changin”
More news from the world of Death Care:
- Dying can cost loved ones $20,000 before lost wages and worse health new report says. Forbes
- Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Video and print story. Space.com
- Homesteaders announces growth rate increase. Homesteaders Press Release
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Dear Abby or one of those type columns, once said, “If you want to have a service devoid of any religious connections, you can have a Celebration Of Life…”, though that is the only place I have seen that referred to that technically a Celebration Of Life is not considered a religious service. Has anyone else seen or heard that? We all know what the definition of a funeral is, of a what a memorial service is… but is there a clear definition of Celebration Of Life?
Ha! I literally mentioned that song, in that same opinion as you have conveyed, about 2 years ago in a speech I did! Great minds!