Tuesday, May 7, 2013

All About the Parsonage . . .


If you've been around here any length of time, you know I love the spark of creative genius that is the soul of The Nester.  {Remember 31 Days of Awesome Relationships?  It's a Haven, Not a Fortress?}

Well, last month she kicked off a great conversation about parsonages.  And wandering through those stories motivated me to do a Seven Questions Interview with a longtime reader of this blog.  She's got plenty to say about the subject of church-provided housing.  And I know her heart is one worth listening to ...
What do our readers need to know right at the top of this interview?
I am a pastor’s wife who lived in three parsonages over a 25 year ministry.  We were blessed to have wonderful congregations who paid for the upkeep of the homes, the initial painting when we moved in, and occasional improvements over time. 
What was your most fun experience in the parsonage?
Having our first open house during the Christmas season and having the senior members of the congregation talk about their memories of events that took place in the house 40 years earlier.  This parsonage had a great history as a former guest house for business men before being moved to its present day location.  During the move, the elders and wives took turns staying in the house to make sure there was no vandalism.  To hear these women in their 80’s reliving an exciting time in their own ministry, "keeping guard" at night as they watched for the "hoodlums" who wanted to ransack the house while it was sitting on top of a wheeled frame, will always stay with me.  It made the house special.
The most maddening?
That’s an easy one!  Being in a church business meeting where the church is looking at the budget, trying to see where they could cut costs.  Someone said that they could save heating costs at the parsonage, if the pastor’s family could put on more sweatshirts during the winter season!  They said it as a joke, but some people shook their heads as if in agreement!  
I think it is a tie between the 45 year old yellow formica kitchen counters with holes in it (which we lived with for over 10 years) or the sight of hundreds of wood roaches crawling up the living room walls, three days after we moved in!  This was due to leaving the parsonage empty for 1 ½ years between pastors with the garage filled with newspapers!  We ended up having to move out for 2 weeks while they fumigated the house and ripped up old carpeting that was infested!
If you could, what's the first thing you'd change about living in church-supplied housing?
It’s hard to pick just one.  I think if given a choice, I wouldn’t choose to live right next door to the church building.  There is not a lot of privacy and there is a prevalent feeling within most congregations that the pastor and family are always available.  I remember being woken up at 11:30pm one night by someone from a group that was meeting at the church and wanted us to lock the church building since the church door didn’t automatically lock when it was closed! 
I would also check to see who had keys to the house!  I remember after one move, I was upstairs unpacking and came downstairs to find a woman I didn’t know, trying to change a ceiling light fixture with one from her house that she wasn’t using anymore!  She didn’t even attend the church anymore, but had a key from years ago when she led a Bible study in the home!
The other thing I would change would be my attitude.  It is very easy to go from gratitude to greed when you are living in a home that is paid for and maintained by a church.  You start to compare the updates or lack of updates in the parsonage to other people’s homes in the congregation instead of being thankful for what you have been given.
What do churches need to know about the pastor's family?
The pastor’s family isn’t perfect and their home is not going to be kept in the way everyone expects it to be since everyone has different expectations.  Whether it is the kind of flowers in the garden, a bicycle left outside, or how a family decorates, this is their home while they are at the church and people’s discussions about how other pastors' families had arranged things really don't matter!
And what do leaders need to understand about the living spaces they provide their shepherd?
The pastor’s home should be in the same “condition” or have the same “amenities” as the average person’s home in the congregation.  Updates should be done within reason.  When they ask a pastor to choose paint or paper to decorate the home or if appliances need to be purchased or a bathroom/kitchen is being redone, give the pastor a price range to work with or a choice of three appliances.  It is hard to make choices when it isn’t your own home and the people who are paying for it usually have firm ideas as to how they want it to be. 



  1. What a touching, practical, and great article. There's so much to learn from pastors and their families. Their need for their boundaries to be respected and to be appreciated is so essential. The reminder that even joking comments touch on sensitive issues is an important one. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Yeah, Jonathan, those stupid, insensitive comments can really sting ... and leave wounds that take a long time to heal ...



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