Music plays an important part of Christian funerals and finding songs that fit the right message can take some thought. Depending on how you want to honor the deceased, you can choose from more traditional hymns or contemporary Christian music for the funeral, or even a mix of many styles and eras.
Traditional Christian Funeral Songs
If you are going for a more traditional and somber theme, it's easy to find songs that have been used with Christian funerals for many years. Your church's staff can most likely provide recommendations for traditional songs to you.
This beautiful hymn has long been a favorite for funerals. Some funeral services that choose to play Amazing Grace will also bring in a person to play Scottish bagpipes to fit with the theme. If you choose to play a recorded version of the song rather than have a live singer, there are many versions to choose from with popular singers such as opera singer Andrea Bocelli, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, country singer LeAnn Rimes and even Elvis Presley.
Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)
This beautiful song is an alternate version of Amazing Grace that was created by the Christian group Hillsong Worship. It features an amalgamation of the traditional Amazing Grace lyrics and arrangement with new lyrics that present "broken" imagery reflecting a sad, but hopeful, reflection on life.
Rock of Ages
Another traditional hymn that has been set to music is Rock of Ages. The song's lyrics fit in with a funeral as they remind listeners that God is there for you even during the stormy and difficult times. There are many recorded versions of the song by well-known singers such as gospel artist Amy Grant, singer Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin.
Abide With Me
This traditional Scottish hymn from the 1800s by Henry Francis Lyte is often a part of traditional Christian funeral services. It is inspired by the scriptures Luke 24:29 and 1 Corinthians 15:55. You can find instrumental versions to play as well as versions with the lyrics sung by artists like Audrey Assad.
Victory in Jesus
This hymn by composer E.M. Barlett is often played at funerals and had its origins in evangelical Christian and gospel ceremonies. It has been recorded by several Christian and gospel artists, including the version by the Christian Gospel Choir and the group Selah.
Contemporary Christian Funeral Songs
There are many popular Christian funeral songs that come from contemporary musicians in genres such as country, pop and rhythm and blues.
Originally written and recorded by Leonard Cohen, this somber song has been covered by many artists such as Pentatonix, Jeff Buckley and Willie Nelson. The song's lyrics are based on biblical themes and the sad, melancholic tone is fitting for a funeral.
Country music lovers may gravitate toward having this song by Chris Stapleton played at a funeral for a loved one. It focuses on a person who died too young and is appropriate for a funeral for a younger person.
Tears in Heaven
This touching song was written by rock musician Eric Clapton after the death of his young son. Although the song has a melancholy vibe, it also expresses hope that someday we will see our loved ones again in heaven.
Wind Beneath My Wings
Although many people associate this song with singer Bette Midler, there are several versions with different singers and styles available. The stirring lyrics and harmonies coupled with the comforting words makes this song a popular choice for many Christian funerals.
This gentle song with Sarah McLachlan's soothing vocals is an excellent funeral song. The lyrics convey the image of the deceased being carried away in the "arms of an angel" to a better place.
All My Tears
Country musicians Julie Miller and Emmylou Harris performed this song which was written after the death of a friend and colleague. Although the song has a sad melody, the words express that the deceased is now free and with God and advises the listeners to "weep not for me my friend."
Three Wooden Crosses
This classic song recorded by country artist Randy Travis is often played at funerals. The song tells the story of a farmer, teacher, preacher and prostitute who are involved in a bus accident, with only the prostitute surviving. Gifted the Bible by the dying priest, she turns her life around and has a son who becomes a preacher himself. It's a fitting song for a funeral because of its themes of redemption and death leading to new possibilities.
You Raise Me Up
This song has been recorded by many artists and singer Josh Groban's may be one of the most well known versions. The song has inspirational lyrics with religious overtones that work well with a contemporary funeral.
Candle in the Wind
Elton John wrote this plaintive song originally in memory of Marilyn Monroe and he later revised the song after the death of Princess Diana and performed a new version. The song's sad lyrics are a good fit for a funeral for someone who has died too young.
Upbeat Christian Funeral Songs
Although funerals can be somber occasions, it's appropriate to play uplifting music to help mourners deal with their grief and remind them of the deceased's moving on to heaven. Some of these songs have a more inspirational tone, rather than being overly religious, and work well at funerals.
I Can Only Imagine
This song recorded by popular Christian rock group MercyMe speaks to what it feels like to be with God in heaven. The song was written by the band about the death of the father of one of its members. If you prefer a different version, try the cover versions by pop singer Susan Boyle or gospel singer Tamela Mann.
Spirit in the Sky
Spirit in the Sky may seem like an unusual choice for a funeral with its rollicking, jovial tone, but the lyrics make it a perfect fit. The song sounds like gospel music crossed with 60s rock and roll. You can choose the original version by Norman Greenbaum from 1969 or a more recent cover by Elton John.
A popular song by Christian rock artist Phil Wickman, it starts out gently and builds up with a joyous call to be one with the angels. The upbeat lyrics and guitar will definitely lift the spirits of funeral attendees.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
First popularized in the classic film The Wizard of Oz, Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a beautiful addition to a funeral seeking a more positive song choice. The song's hopeful lyrics and description of a beautiful place over the rainbow can be seen as an allegory for our eventual move to heaven. There are many versions of the song and you can choose a recording of the original Judy Garland version or a more contemporary, fun twist on the song by Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole.
Dancing in the Sky - Dani and Lizzy
Written and performed by Canadian twins Dani and Lizzy Nelson, this song became a viral hit on YouTube. They wrote the song after a close friend had died and the lyrics relate how despite the pain of missing the deceased, they hope they are "dancing in the sky" in heaven.
Angels Among Us
Alabama recorded this song in the 80s and the song has been played at funerals ever since. The song's subject matter focuses on how those who have passed on will still be with us as angels to guide and support us. The song includes a chorus of children accompanying the band's singing of the uplifting chorus.
What a Wonderful World
If you're looking for a hopeful song in a time of sadness, What a Wonderful World is an amazing choice. Recorded by renowned jazz artist Louis Armstrong, make sure you choose the version that has his one-minute introduction where he gives gentle advice to the listener to "give it a chance" to reach a wonderful world.
Finding the Right Christian Funeral Songs for You
These songs are just the beginning of possibilities for a funeral you are planning. The first step is to decide on the tone of the funeral and then look for songs with lyrics and melodies that speak to that feeling. Depending on the funeral, you may want to use traditional, quieter songs with reflective and religious lyrics or more inspiring, upbeat songs to get the audience to feel good about their experiences with the deceased and remember him or her positively.