Friday, July 22, 2011


I think I've mentioned before that we are living in a parsonage now. Mostly I love it. It's a nice house, well-cared for, and I'm generally happy not to be responsible for fixing things.

However. There's always a however. The nuances of "my" home belonging to the church (which means it belongs to everyone and no one in particular) and being across the parking lot from the church building and drawing from the same tightly-squeezed budget that everyone is trying to stretch so salaries can be paid... I don't have to repair the roof but there are other things to think about.

There are things I would be trying to do to this house if I owned it but that's not for us to decide. The church budget doesn't have any wiggle room right now so any money spent on our house -- especially for major improvements -- seems like it is taking away from something 'more important'. Sometimes it's like living on a commune, but we're the only ones whose personal living space must balance with the greater good.

Any of you live(d) in a parsonage? How do you handle the gray area around what is good for your family and what is good for the church?


  1. I am a pastor's wife and we lived in a parsonage directly across the parking lot from the church for five years. We too found that the parsonage was the last on the list. After a particularly terrible hailstorm where every roof in town had to be replaced, our roof was one of the last to be fixed (even the church roof was fixed well before the parsonage). During bad times and disasters my husband was always one of the first ones on the scene to help the families with support (from cleaning out the muck from a flood to sitting with the family while they helplessly watched their business burn to the ground). When it came to bad things happening in our home/parsonage, it was left up to us to fix it and most of the time to find the money to do it. We had people walk in the house at 7am looking for pastor while we slept sounding in bed, and during our first year there, the church actually considered hosting part of VBS in our basement.
    In the end, it was certainly a learning experience. My husband viewed all of the home repairs/updates as an "opportunity to learn/practice how to do something on somebody else's house." My husband and I never truly felt like it was our house, but our three children viewed it differently. It was their home. So I guess it is all perspective. Eventhough living so close to the church made it hard to maintain your boundaries, the children cherished those little moments like riding their tricycles down the sidewalk to say good afternoon to daddy and tell him how school went that day. Moments that are harder to get when the church and your home are a car drive apart.

    I would tell you that your family comes first. I find that the kind of attitude that your church is exhibiting is usually a symptom of a larger issue and it is not really you and the parsonage. Try to step back to find some perspective on the issue. Living in the parsonage means living in a fishbowl so finding perspective can be hard. Then when you find some, pick your battles carefully. It is hard for many in the church to understand that a parsonage is an investment in not only your current pastor but the others that are to follow as well. And in the end try not to take anything too personally.

    I came across your blog by accident, but I have enjoyed reading your posts especially the honesty in which your write. I have found inspiration in even your darker moments and it is nice to know that other's struggle with the same issues. Thank you for your perspective on life as a pastor's wife.

  2. Wow. Sounds like some very weird things happened to you there. How nice that you can appreciate how happy your children were in that setting.

    I think that living in a parsonage here is about as good as it can be. Everyone is respectful of our privacy and they want us to be happy. It just isn't normal (American?) for my home to be managed by committee.

    Glad you're here and finding the blog helpful.


  3. I, too, am a pastor's wife, and we spent all but the last two years of our married life in various parsonages. We've experienced some crazy things. I can sympathize with having your home "managed by committee." When I was expecting my first son, we had to ask permission in a business meeting to paint the baby's room, then sit there while everyone discussed the potential problems and voted! It was insane!

  4. Let's see, when the crystalline mold grew all over the basement walls and the cement between those same bricks gave way that we needed a few little Dutch boys to stick their fingers in the holes pouring forth water, we were asked if we couldn't just not use the basement at all.

    And when the shower wall gave way when my husband was showering and dared to lean against it, the solution was to put in a tub surround... without doing a darn thing about the black mold in the wall. They had to cut a hole in the closet wall behind it to fix the leaking pipe... which also grew mold up that wall and all over the stuff in said closet. They told us to open the windows to let it air out a little... we wouldn't even notice the smell soon enough.

    Back to the shower - we were just told not to use it (the only one in the house) to let it air out in there overnight before they put in the surround. I went and bought a spray bottle of some sort of clorox product and soaked down every bit of black I could find in there. It helped some, but who knows what grew when they put the surround in there over wet walls the next day.

  5. A congregation can be taught. We live in a wonderful home owned by the church. Our privacy is almost always respected. I am an avid gardener and have done a lot with the grounds around the parsonage. Not a week goes by that I don't hear how appreciative the members are that I take such care in making the parsonage look nice. The water heater broke and we were told to call someone and bill the church. Someone else mows our yard, so my husband doesn't have to be concerned with it. They also have someone plow our drives and walkways in winter. Our house got a new roof this past year. We have lived here for three years and I have stripped wallpaper from four rooms, put in new counters in the kitchen, painted cabinets, updated the guest room and bathroom, and painted nearly every wall... I didn't even bother to ask. (Well, I did asked about the counters)
    I do hear many stories about congregations who don't do a good job at caring for the needs of their pastor and his family. I thought it would be nice to hear one where they do. I am blessed, and I'm very thankful. I know the parsonage isn't my house... but it is my home.

  6. Sallie, what a wonderful thing to hear! Thank you for passing on some good news.

    A friend told me recently that she heard a tour bus drive past her (parsonage) house one day and announce that it was the pastor's home. Some people might think our "fame" looks like fun!

  7. It is a sticky situation isn't it? We also lived right next to the church, about 10 feet from it actually! There were pros and cons, I loved the ease of slipping over there early in the morning to have some quiet time while my kids were still in bed, but I did not like being the place that homeless people came for money and wayward drunks knocked on our door.

    It was very interesting that when our family bought our own home in town, it very much impacted the congregation that we were here to stay and not just move on with the next church opportunity.


Thanks for using this space to share your encouraging words.