Further Thoughts on the Parsonage

Further thoughts have come in regarding our parsonage question. Attached are the responses we received Sunday about the Parsonage/Housing Allowance decision. We had two people ask about how many other Methodist churches in the area are currently using a housing allowance as opposed to providing a parsonage. The District Office does not have those figures, but did inform us that well over half of the churches in the area now provide a housing allowance. The big churches in our District--Manchester, Living Word, The Gathering, and Salem in Ladue have all gone to housing allowances.

  • Selling the parsonage is a permanent solution to a short-term problem of money for a roof and a kitchen. The issue of handyman: Jim Patterson (husband of Pat Patterson) is a gem of a carpenter and all around great guy for many maintenance issues. I appreciate all that Alice & John Mohr have done. If they want to retire from taking care of buildings, that is reasonable.
  • I would like to see the expense issues involved. How much is a housing allowance for a family? What have been our expenses for the parsonage over a five year period in order to make a one year average? I feel something like this is needed in order to see what our realistic obligations would be.
  • Iʼd appreciate some specific information on other churches in the District who provide a housing allowance rather than a personage--$ amount, and also figures on how much it would cost on a ongoing basis to have parsonage maintenance done by non-volunteers.
  • How many churches (Methodist? Protestant?) in our St. Louis area (city, county) do allowances? How many have parsonages? How do we see about a pastor not choosing to live in our community? (Not in U City?)
  • If it were mine, I would not sell it.
  • 1. Campaign for capital funds 2. Do NOT SELL THE PARSONAGE!!! 3. The only people who want to sell the parsonage are two trustees. Very telling.
  • Why donʼt we just take a vote and go ahead and sell it?
  • I think that the less time and money the church has to spend on property maintenance, the better. I also wonder about the dynamics of your congregation being your landlord. 
  • I think that in our context, the variety of housing options available make giving a housing allowance to a pastor to choose her or his home a good idea.
  • Sell the house--provide an allowance for housing. The time is right for such a transition.
  • Selling the parsonage is not only good for the church (better use of resources), but also good for the pastor. A family needs to invest in housing to secure their financial future.
  • Sell the parsonage! It is a financial burden. Money can be used for ministries and/or repairing the church building.
  • Parsonage should be sold. Proceeds invested w/income to pay housing allowance to minister.
  • I think we should move toward a housing allowance. It is more fiscally responsible and will better allow the church to meet the particular needs & choices of the pastor--which will be different for different pastors.
  • I appreciate the time and consideration the trustees are putting into this question. I worry that continued maintenance of the current parsonage is difficult to sustain with our projected financial and human resources. I support a change in the mechanism for supporting housing for the church clergy.
  • It would be best to sell but since we donʼt have to, we should wait for top dollar.
  • Someone suggested at Thimble Club, that if your target buyers were Jewish, they may want a kosher kitchen. It would make more sense to offer a kitchen $ allowance than to redo the kitchen before putting it on the market.

This comment came in as well:

First, thanks for the long, hard work in throughly researching long-term implications for how we provide housing for our pastor.  As noted by others, we need more information on typical amounts of housing allowances that other congregations are providing.

Thanks, too, for the leadership in looking forward before we have financial and maintenance pressures arising from our current parsonage. This is so much better than waiting until the issues become crises.  This is about thinking ahead, not how we can fund-raise out of a present  emergency (Though we have often operated in the emergency mode in the past).

A big advantage of a housing allowance is flexibility as the family configuration of our pastors may change over the years.  How would the current parsonage work out if our next pastor had 5 children?  Had limited mobility or was in a wheel chair?  Was  a single person with no other family members? Had school age children?

Our parsonage has been mostly maintained by heroic, skilled volunteers, often doing rush marathon work during pastoral changes or vacations.  We can not count on this forever.  

Meanwhile, our aging church building continues to demand significant work.  Not owning a parsonage would make better sense in concentrating our volunteer efforts on the church, which is critical to our operations.

Pouring money and efforts into an aging, inflexible parsonage seems poor stewardship. "We've always done it this way." is not a good answer.  

The prestige of the congregation in having an impressive parsonage in a "nice" neighborhood doesn't count for much, either (and isn't mentioned in our Mission).

We should also take note that many congregations are already going with the housing allowance.

For all these reasons, I favor the housing allowance, but we need more facts on housing allowances before we make a decision.