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Living in the Parsonage
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

Where the pastor lives can be one of the most sensitive issues in the parish. Whether called parsonage, rectory, or manse, historically most churches provided a living space for their pastors.

Over the past few decades this has been changing.   It is becoming more common and accepted for a minister to live in their own home.

As with everything there are pros and cons for each living situation. Here are a few:

Pro Parsonage:

  • In case of uncertain or short pastoral appointments, one is spared the hassle of purchasing and selling a home.

  • It takes at least five years to amortize a home.  In other words,   after five years the value of a home will have increased enough to get back the amount you spent in terms of home cost, realtor and financing expenses.  One could perceivable make losses.

  • Less worrisome living--no electric, maintenance, or fuel bills to worry about (also: often a housing allowance that is granted instead of the free parsonage does not cover all of the housing expenses).

Pro Home Owning:

  • More Privacy--especially as compared to living in a parsonage that is near or attached to the church building (many pastor's in these situations feel bothered by frequent, unannounced visits and requests to unlock the church, etc.)

  • Less points of tension with the congregation (the condition of the manse is often a point of contention

  • Higher quality of living--remodeling and modifying one's own home is much easier than getting the board to approve a change (often parsonages are kept in neutral color and design themes like "parsonage" beige carpets, walls, and drapes.

  • Home owners build equity.  Typically after 30 years, an mortgaged home is paid off which means more security, and better living comfort in retirement.

  • There may be certain tax advantages to owning a home.

Real Life Funny Parsonage Stories
by Pastors and their Families

We used to live in a manse that was integrated into the church building (not just attached, but integrated). My daughter had a corn snake, "Glider," at the time and one day found the terrarium open and Glider gone. We didn't quite know how to share with the congregation that there was a snake on the loose, but eventually it became known and, understandably, some people got very upset (I was wondering why the worship attendance suddenly dropped). Anyhow, looking back this seems rather humorous to us.

I think the issue of pets could also be a pro-housing allowance argument, as some churches have a no-pet policy for their manses....FYS

My husband had just graduated from seminary and we had no savings built up with which to purchase a home. One of the churches in the two-church parish to which he was called owned a parsonage which had been rented for almost thirty years. Because of long-standing issues, the parish really wanted us to live in the town which is halfway between their two towns but, after desperately seeking a decent house or apartment to rent, we begged them to let us consider moving into the parsonage.... [read more]