I don’t know what else to call this post. The one I wrote about the parsonage was easier to title, but less a part of my experiences in my marriage to a pastor. We’ve now owned three houses (which seems insane to me). So here are a few do’s and don’ts for congregations who give a housing allowance instead of a parsonage:
Don’t hold out a measly sum for the housing allowance and expect your pastor to find a suitable place for $300 a month. Look at what you pay for your housing (including utilities) and make sure he’s covered. Some towns are more expensive than others. Just because he’s a pastor doesn’t mean he should live in squalor.
Do scope out the available real estate in your town before making the decision to ditch the parsonage. Some towns just don’t offer a lot of options. Others have a housing market so stunted that if you pastor ever takes a call elsewhere, they will be saddled with a mortgage in your town for the rest of their lives. And don’t think that by making him buy a house in your town that he’ll stay forever. Ministry just doesn’t work that way.
Don’t rule out renting. Some people prefer to rent instead of buy. Don’t get any ideas about the parsonage you still have – either give it to them to live in or let them choose their own house. You can’t make money on this deal.
Do remember the tips from the parsonage – garbage days, hairdressers, dry cleaners, etc. Add to that list of information all of the contacts for utilities, taxes, and school districts (actually, make sure you cover schools with the parsonage, too).
Don’t get emotionally involved in the decision. Where your pastor chooses to live is his choice. It’s one thing to get upset if your pastor buys a house fifty miles from the church; it’s quite another thing if he’s only five minutes away. And why do you care if they paint their front door purple? It’s not YOUR house, it’s theirs!
Do try to help out with issues they may have around their home. It may be their house, but you know how much money they make, and repairs are expensive. Get a group together to paint, or suggest members who are handy who might do things at cost.
Don’t offer to “help” and then send them a huge bill for the work. Your pastor is not a new customer, he’s your pastor! If you are looking to do business, then treat it that way with an estimate up front. And don’t be offended if they say no, or even if they choose a competitor. It’s their budget and their choice.
Finally, remember that looking for a home is a difficult process for many. It’s especially emotional for your pastor and his family, who are probably leaving behind a home they are comfortable with or even love, and people that they have grown attached to. It takes time to get settled in. If the pastor’s wife is crying on moving day, it’s probably not about the food you brought as a welcome gift – it’s the culmination of stress from the washing machine coming off the truck broken to the people who never said goodbye at their old church.