Answers to Your Parsonage Questions

In an earlier post, we presented some questions about the parsonage and the discernment process that had been submitted by congregants.  Here follow answers to some of these questions:

The current parsonage has four bedrooms and three and a half baths. How can the extra space in the parsonage be used?  That is up to our pastor and family! While the church provides for the pastor's housing, it is important for this home to be a place of rest for the pastor (and family). 

Where would the profits from the sale of the parsonage go? Any proceeds from a sale would go into a special fund maintained by the Missouri United Methodist Foundation. The United Methodist Book of Discipline and the Missouri Annual Conference require that this money be used for pastoral housing. A set amount would be held in escrow for the future purchase of a parsonage. Money generated by this account could be used to defray the cost of a housing allowance. 

What limits are placed on a pastor receiving a housing allowance? The pastor is not required to meet the same housing standards (e.g., three bedrooms, garage, handicap accessibility) as a church is when purchasing a parsonage. The pastor could choose to rent a studio apartment or pay a mortgage on a larger home that suits his/her needs. If a pastor wants to live outside of the area served by the local church, the district superintendent has to give special permission. 

What about a capital funds campaign? A capital funds campaign is labor-intensive as well as financially intensive. It would become the sole focus of the pastor and lay leadership for a minimum period of 12 to 18 months. A successful campaign would require engaging a professional fundraiser. This professional fundraiser would ask about the purpose of the campaign and how the campaign fits into our overall mission, vision, and strategic objectives.  Because multiple capital campaigns can reduce the effectiveness of future campaigns, any capital campaign would need to follow a strategic plan and have clear connections to growing in discipleship and invitation---with a specific focus on becoming a multicultural, intergenerational church. 

What about home maintenance insurance? The Trustees have investigated this, and home maintenance insurance would not provide long-term cost savings. 

What about a home equity loan? If we keep the parsonage, this would be a good option for re-roofing and upgrading the kitchen without depleting the Emergency Fund. 

How does this relate to the church's care of the church building? If the parsonage is sold, the amount of time, energy, and money currently dedicated to the parsonage could be switched to caring for the church building. As you know, there is a lot of work to keeping up this 100+ year old building! 

How much work is currently needed to maintain the parsonage? This varies, but averages 15 volunteer hours a month of hands-on labor. The Administrative Team receives regular reports on the Trustees' monthly activities. To see these, please contact Administrative Team leader Dan Barrett.

How many churches in our area have parsonages versus providing a housing allowance? Our district office did not have exact numbers available but said that "the overwhelming majority" of the 63 churches in our district have gone to a housing allowance versus a parsonage.  Two churches have sold their parsonages so far this year.  She said that only the biggest churches in our conference (greater than 300 membership" seem to be retaining parsonages.  Low real estate availability and turnover in rural situations can favor having a parsonage much more so than for urban churches.  Manchester has sold their parsonage and Living Word, The Gathering and Salem in Ladue also provide a housing allowance and have no parsonage.  

Provide more information about typical housing allowance amounts in our area.  The housing allowance should pay for housing and utilities for a house or apartment that meets the conference guidelines for a parsonage.  The trustees looked at rental properties in our area that were at or near these guidelines and estimated the rental cost and utilities to be between $18,000 and $20,000 a year.  If we decide to go with a housing allowance, we will work with the district to fine tune the allowance amount.  It will then be formally submitted and reviewed by the conference legal staff to make sure it conforms to IRS guidelines.  The United Methodist Church is pushing in the direction of housing allowances in situations where it makes financial sense to do so.  It is also certainly our intent to make a decision that is not only best for our church, but that provides the best situation for our pastor.