For the past few months I’ve been working on a post to churches who care for parsonages¬†(parsonagi?). I have no idea if I’ll ever publish it. I have 266 posts in draft so I’m not sure what the odds are.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Do you, have you, will you ever live in a parsonage?

What’s your experience?

Does your church still provide a parsonage for the pastor? Do you have a friend or family member who lives in a parsonage?

Parsonage living. Inquiring minds want to know…

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  1. As as Methodist pastor’s daughter, I have lived in many a parsonage. Some of them have been great – others not so much. The current one my family lives in is HUGE but outdated. Now that they are moving (in June), the church is finally fixing some things. I think it is a great thing for a church to provide a home for it’s pastor and their families. Many times, the pay isn’t so great so a “free” home is great benefit.
    This being said, one of the downfalls of parsonage living is that many pieces of furniture have been donated by a saintly church member. You can’t just get rid of it. Most of the time, this furniture is ugly, very outdated, and uncomfortable. These usually reside in the formal living room of the parsonage. As a child, these rooms were not something that we went into often.
    Another issue is that if you want to change anything, you have to go through Congress (i.e. church committees) to get anything done. Huge ordeal!
    Overall, parsonage living isn’t terrible. My dad is retiring this summer after 37 years in the ministry. He and my step-mom are moving into their very first purchased home and are super excited about it.

  2. I’ve lived in parsonages for the last seven years. My husband is a Southern Baptist pastor. The first parsonage we lived in matched the hearts of some of the people we served, difficult. The home had been put together haphazardly, and had some holes that made it easy for mice and snakes to find their way in. We were told there would be fresh paint on the walls when we got there, but unfortunately, that was not the case. We bought all our fresh paint ourselves. There was plenty of light on the front side of the home because of all the windows there, and it really did feel like a fishbowl. We had train tracks at the back of the property, and our daughter would always wake up when a train came through, her heart pounding. Our washer and dryer were outside in a building that leaked. Challenging…but God delivers!

    When my husband was called to our current church almost five years ago, they were eager to have a family once again living in the parsonage they build in 1989. That pastor had requested a new home be built, but then he only lived in it less than a year. The next pastor lived in it also very briefly because his wife wanted to be in her own home. And this is a great house! It does reflect the hearts of our congregation – warm and inviting! They updated all the kitchen appliances, all the floors throughout the home, painted all the walls fresh and clean, installed a fence in our backyard, and took out redbushes that my husband is allergic to. It’s still ours to do as we wish, so we’ve painted rooms various colors, had a church member pull bushes out of the front yard, and I’ve flower gardened while my husband has a huge vegetable garden every year. It’s not perfect: we have a tiny kitchen, and three small bedrooms (we’re expecting our fifth child), but our congregation will see to our needs. We also don’t have windows on one end of the house (the end that faces the church), but that’s because when the church built the house, they wanted to provide privacy for the pastor’s family!

    As far as finances are concerned, I think it can be a wise decision for a pastor and his family to live in parsonages. We are able to save a house payment every month so that when the day comes, we can buy our own home. In the meantime, someone else handles the expenses of home ownership, like when the air conditioner needs work. As far as building equity is concerned, many pastors buy homes to rent out.

    I’m excited to see you write about parsonage decor!

    • Adrian says:

      Lauren, i’m newly married to a Baptist Pastor, we are residing at the church parsonage. I hate it! The furniture is awful and being young i cant enjoy decorating because its not ours. I loved hosting things at my condo before we married now we can’t invite friends over because it looks like someone dropped off furnishing from a rummage sale! I told my husband i will not live like this i don’t care if its a one bedroom apartment at least it will be something we have together, plus they are taking out of his salary which is not much at all for utilities they say he’s going over, but he has never seen a bill! To my knowledge this is not lawful is it? I thought if they had a parsonage for the pastor and family utilities were included. If not we should be somewhere we like paying bills.

      • I’m so sorry to hear that y’all are having a rough time, Adrian. I believe God allows first churches to sometimes be more difficult so that you go through the fire to be refined! First, seek gratitude. You have a home when many others do not. I don’t know if you can replace your furniture or not, but in the mean time, maybe you can slipcover or find other ways to cover what you’ve got. Second, totally go ahead and be hospitable. Have friends, church members, and lost people to your home. Hospitality is more about your time together, making people feel welcomed and at home than what your home looks like. Better a hot dog served on a paper plate with a happy heart than a gourmet meal on fine china with a sour attitude. Easy on your husband! You said you’re newly married. One of the main needs a husband has is admiration and respect from his wife. Be satisfied with what he is providing for you at this time. I do believe you should be able to see your utility bill. Churches do things different ways. Laws are changed from time to time. We pay our own power bill, though our phones are covered. Water is from a well. I’m praying you find a way to be creative like your Creator and work with what you’ve got. Enjoy this early time in your marriage. We’ve been married twelve years, and those early small homes and apartments weren’t ideal. Gracious, what we have now isn’t what many people would call ideal, but we’ve made it our home with the almost six years we’ve lived here now. But looking back at those early homes, when we didn’t have much money, we still enjoyed just living together whatever the environment.

  3. My husband is a pastor and we do not live in a parsonage. We are provided a housing allowance and can live wherever we like. I think I prefer it that way.

  4. My father is a Southern Baptist pastor, and we grew up in parsonages in my 90’s childhood.
    I remember church members visiting frequently because they thought of it as ‘their’ house. I also recall my mom feeling somewhat obligated to host an open-house party at Christmas, almost as an informal annual inspection under the ruse of holiday festivities.
    I remember takeout pizza because the committees took forever to negotiate the replacement of our oven when it stopped working, and deacons standing on top of my parent’s bed, trying to patch a hole in the ceiling on a very stormy night.
    I remember unkind comments when my dad didn’t cut the grass as quickly as it grew.
    I remember how elated my mother was, the first time they owned their house, because she could paint all the walls whatever color she wanted. She still has every room painted a different bold color.
    I, too, remember moving in around hand-me-down furniture from well-meaning churchgoers (some of it admittedly beautiful). I remember a garage always full of donations stored for next year’s church’s annual charity yard sale.
    I remember having to ask if we could have a dog.
    I remember my mother kneeling at the air vents pulling out toys the previous PKs had ‘deposited’ into their secret vault. I remember hearing that the church ladies had gone into the home to clean after we moved out, and that they’d been moved to tears because there was nothing to clean, nothing left but the scent of my mother’s candles and lemon pledge and their heartbreak that we were gone.
    I remember young couples knocking at the door at odd times, asking for the preacher to marry them.
    I remember others knocking to ask for help with their utility bill.
    I remember being grateful for a home to live in, and being annoyed at the intrusion, and being lost when we were in between churches. I remember warmth and happiness, and conflict and it never belonging to us.
    I can’t wait to read your post.

    • this rang so true. heartbreak beautiful. you captured the heart of loving and living in a church family so well. thank you.

  5. Cat Spicer says:

    Hi there! I am currently living in an old parsonage. My hubby and I purchased it from a local church 7 years ago. We live in a rural area and with declining parish sizes, two churches combined congregations several years ago (long before I moved to the area). Each church had a parsonage but with only one pastor serving both parishes, the need for both just wasn’t there. Part of the purchase provision was that we had to move the parsonage to a different location.

    In typical small town fashion, it became the talk of the town. On moving day, residents set up their lawn chairs and watched the house slowly move across town. The event was plastered on the front page of the newspaper and when I identify myself (an outsider who married into the town) as the homeowner, I experience near celebrity status.

    The home is a typical 1940s brick 2 story with lots of lovely touches (hardwood floors throughout, glass doorknobs, arched room dividers and some more outdated things we consider our special quirks.

    The parsonage belonged to a Lutheran church and my hubby and I belong to the Catholic church in town. I feel blessed knowing how many godly people have spent time within the walls of my home and I’m sure that 50 years from now, we will still be known as the ‘church house’. We have one pizza delivery place in town and whenever they are confused as to our address, we just tell them it’s the church house. Pizza arrives piping hot every time. :)

  6. Growing up, my dad was a pastor and we lived in parsonages. That was just the way it was. Having decorating ideas would have been fabulous. It’s a lot like living in a rental in some ways. I married a military guy and lived in base housing for over 20 years – again a lot like living in a rental. There is only so much you can change. I’m finally in a home we have purchased. Now I find myself afraid of changing things because I will live in this house a long time. Funny how perspective changes. :)

  7. We’ve been in ministry for over 17 years now, and have yet to live in a parsonage. We’ve owned for the last 13 years–4 different houses! Ministry being the somewhat transient profession that it is we always buy with an eye to re-sale, and decorate with that in mind, too. So–while we don’t live in a church-owned parsonage there is a sense that this may not be home for a long time. I enjoy my house, though, and learn new things with each one.

  8. Samantha says:

    I currently live in a rectory (same as parsonage) with my husband and children. We are on church property which can be a blessing and a curse. For the most part, I find it a blessing. Our parishioners are great about giving us as much privacy as possible. They never ask to come inside although sometimes we invite them. Things are generally fixed promptly, although not always the way I would choose. I would love a new refrigerator but have been reluctant to ask. But I know that it is such a blessing to have a place for our family that is close enough that my husband can be home for most meals yet close enough should he be needed for something. Our yard is taken care of as part of the church grounds and that is a wonderful thing! We desperately need more storage, but we are dealing with that. I am just ever so thankful that before we moved in the carpet was removed, hardwood refinished, and paneling painted. That makes everything more livable. Feel free to contact me if I can help. I think it’s a great idea for a post because people who are members of churches with parsonages need to know about them as much as those of us who live in them do. They need to know ways they can bless their clergy families and not be a stumbling block to them.

  9. My husband is a bi-vocational Pastor. We live in the parsonage. The church used to have two parsonages, but have sold one off. This is the nicest house we have ever lived in. People from the church have a hard time believing that…but my husband has not made much money in years past, so we’ve always lived in run down houses-so we are grateful. The church is great about most repairs. Some things they’ve let go. The house is my husband’s pay, we make no other money from the job. As far as decorating, the home reflects more of the people we minister to than us. We have groups that meet here so things need to be a certain way and always clean-easier said than done with our family, but we are learning lessons along the way. I think that I just feel so blessed to be in a decent house that I don’t think much about what I want. Either that or we are too busy, haha:) Every once in a while I put a little personal touch in a room or two. Would love some posts directly dealing with parsonages. Thanks!

  10. Patti-Ann says:

    That is a very good question. I have absolutely no idea where the Priest lived! Still have no clue :)

  11. I grew up attending an Anglican church in Western Australia. I remember the priest and his lovely wife lived in the rectory or parsonage on the same site as the church. It was an old 1970’s style building which has not changed much since. The wife of the priest was a wonderful lady, the heart and soul of the church, and looked after her elderly father who lived with them until he died. You could visit the office which was next to the rectory at most times of the day, for help. One year the new minister decided to rent a house somewhere separate from the church, but most of the time the rectory is the home of the priest still. There is a new priest moving into the rectory this week. My mum still attends the church, and so I hear about what is going on still.

  12. Krista Ruark says:

    Our first parsonage was a cute little house that sat beside the church. The first week after we moved into it, my husband, wearing his underwear opened the bedroom door to find a teenager standing two feet in front of him, using the phone in the kitchen. The church didn’t have a phone, so our home was apparently open for anyone’s use.
    We often smelled gas in the home, and especially in the bathroom inset gas stove that we found out later was illegal. My husband crawled under the house and found that the old gas pipes had attachments that weren’t designed for the purpose of delivering gas to the stoves and were leaking in several places. My husband tore it all out on his own, we removed all the gas heaters in each room, and plugged up all the holes going into the house. The house had a heat pump that wasn’t sufficient until we discovered it only had one tape, so we had that fixed.
    After we moved in, one of the women from the church came over with plants and told me exactly where I was supposed to plant them outside.
    There were some very dear people at our first pastorate, but we found out later that the church had a reputation as a “pastor eating church.” As a previous writer said, “the parsonage reflects the heart of the people.” We found this to be true, but also saw God’s hand in our experience there as we were prepared to go to the mission field.

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  19. Kimberly says:

    I had the blessing of being a pastor’s wife of a rural church with a parsonage next door! My husband pastored this church for nearly 13 years. The home was maintained by Trustees who were primarily farmers and ranchers. The parsonage was 41 years old when we moved into it.

    Upon moving in, I was told by several of the Trustees’ wives to make this parsonage my own. I took that to heart and immediately removed the brown and white polka dot ruffled not to mention threadbare curtains. I was asked to store them in the basement in case they ran us off sooner than later and they could put them back up for the next pastor. I obliged. I also removed several of the light fixtures that were from the 50’s even though the home was built in the 60s.

    After living there a year, I decided it was time to remove the 70s wallpaper in the kitchen, and add some color throughout. I am not sure why I thought “redwood forest” red wouldn’t be a noticeable change from the white when the ladies would come for brunch or bible study, but I did it anyway! Oh my. The response was varied. The more grace filled ladies of the church were thrilled I was showing so much TLC to their church’s property. Others were not so excited, and I some of those less than gracious comments still ring in my head when it comes to mind. It became the running joke that the church would never get rid of us because they would not want to have to paint over such a dark color.

    I continued to do little updates with paint throughout, but the repairs and replacements that needed to be done were beyond my capability and financial resources. The carpet was over 20 years old with cat urine odorous stains in the living room. They voted to replace it after living there 7 years. What was found underneath the lovely brown sculptured carpet repulsed even the carpet layers.

    The kitchen still had old blond birch cabinets with faux copper handles that I painted white shortly before we moved. The basement was finally usable after we spent 8 months gutting and rebuilding it. Before updating it, we affectionately called it our indoor swimming pool. Upon gutting it, we found so much red and black mold, tons of mouse excrement , as well as their bones after they had died in the walls. We moved out upon completion.

    Needless to say,I am grateful to now be living in
    Southern California in a newer home that is “my own”, mold and mouse free. I am grateful for the time we had there, but parsonage living was not for me.

  20. Jo Ann Custer says:

    I surely hope you will consider doing a book or website for families living in parsonages. Contrary to some of the comments submitted thus far, my life in parsonages as the eldest daughter of a poor independent baptist pastor, has yielded nothing but wonderful memories of the warm and beautiful spaces my mom and dad created from each home. In the 18 years of my life that I lived in my parents’ homes, we lived in 6 different church provided homes in a space of 11 years as my father pastor pastored 4 different churches. None of them were ever furnished, which after reading the experiences posted here by others, was a blessing!Because my parents had 5 children in the space of 10 years, we were usually cramped for space in each home. Both of my parents had a God given eye for finding beauty in the ordinary and new purpose in the discards of others. My parents could have easily hosted numerous episodes of “trash-to-treasure” long before such thrift became mainstream. Some of my fondest childhood memories came from exploring the dusty rooms of cavernous old thrift shops with my dad as he searched for each piece of furniture our family needed with the arrival of new additions to the family. He was guided in his selection not only by need but by the limited resources in his well worn brown leather billfold. My dad had quite an eye for the grand designs of the Eastlake Victorian era, often drawn to heavy walnut dressers with marble tops covered under 5 different layers of paint. When we needed desks to do our homework, he would drag home oak roll top desks with fascinating cubby holes, ink stains, and torn canvases holding the old tops together. Early in the mornings before anyone else in our house was up, my dad would go out to his workshop to strip the old paint off his latest treasure and spend hour upon hour sanding the worn old planks until the wood became velvety soft under his touch before he would lovingly apply new coats of shellac or tongue oil sealer, depending upon the desired outcome. Through the years, my dad furnished our humble parsonage homes with elegant pieces like the round top oak claw foot dining room table with 4 oak leaves that would stretch the table out longer than our tiny dining rooms would hold. Add to this oak press back chairs, walnut Eastlake platform rockers refinished by dad and reupholstered by my mom and grandmother, numerous dressers, night stands with tiny glass pulls and hidden compartments, roll top desks, drop leaf desks, ornate hall trees, double door wardrobes, and double beds tall enough to hide under without feeling claustrophic, and one very uncomfortable settee that greatly reduced cuddling with our boyfriends as we gave up Barbie dolls for boys in later years. Complementing my dad’s furniture selections were drapes, curtains, throw pillows, and bedspreads my mom made from found fabrics and remnants, emulating items she saw in the latest issues of Home Beautiful or other popular shelter magazines from the 1960’s and 70’s. I never recall being embarrassed by our homes, quite the opposite. Throughout my growing up years, I fell in love with furniture refinishing,sewing, decorating, garage sales, and glossy decorating magazines. Now, at 58, I recently purchased and redecorated my 25th home, having purchased my first house at the age of 18. Reading your blog and exploring the links you include with each post is like a giant chocolate rush to my brain that relaxes me and takes me to my happy place each time. Truly our God is a decorator with the finest eye for balance and beauty. Sharing this delight gives me perhaps a tiny glimpse of the truest beauty that will someday be Heaven. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  21. My mom found it very stressful to live in the parsonages that we lived in–people in a committee would come and inspect it to make sure that we were taking care of it, and that was tense! One day, when I was 12, I tried a trick I’d heard about and used newspapers to make a streak-free shine on the back door windows…oops, they were plastic, not glass and were very, very scratched. Stress for my parents! Another day that summer (I was so bored in the country w/no friends yet, and brother off to college already), I decided to research and make a golf course in the far section of the yard…apparently no digging was allowed–oops again! Advice I’d give the churches is to hold things lightly. My very favorite thing was moving into a house, and finding the fridge full of delicious homemade food for us!

  22. We are a week away from a church voting on whether or not to call my husband as their pastor. This church is close to my family whom I have lived far away from for many years. I will be able to go through my grandmother’s house nearby and “shop” for things I could use. Her house has not been lived in for a few years, so many things are in disrepair, but I think I may be able to salvage some things and show them some love. I recently got your book from the library and fell in love with the way you do things!
    The church has a parsonage that is almost a hundred years old but they’ve completely remodeled the inside. I think it’s beautiful.
    I realize this is an old post, but it’d be great for you to do a post on parsonages.

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