I have lived in parsonages all of my ministerial career -- except for when I received a housing allowance and chose to live in an apartment. All of the parsonages have been good structures. Each had pluses and minuses. None of them, however, have been my home. Let me explain.
I grew up in a modest dwelling. I had my own room. I had plenty of bookshelf space. If I wanted to decorate the room with posters, I could. If I wanted to paint the wall a different shade (within reason), I was allowed to do so. The home I grew up in had familiar furniture. I knew the creaking of the hallway floors. I knew where to find what I needed in the kitchen. The home where I grew has shaped me. The love in my old home comforts me to this day.
I don't feel the same way about the parsonage. Each comes with its own expectations -- explicit and implicit. There is almost always a church committee that wants to keep and maintain the parsonage in specific ways. Yet, sometimes the committee is unwilling to do much in the way of improvements.
It has always been my goal to leave parsonages in better shape than the way I found them. I believe I have been successful at this. But to live in some parsonages is to live in constant tension. This past fall -- when we had our parsonage inspection -- has been an especially tense time.
I'm not sure lay folk are aware of the fear striking the hearts of parsonage families at inspection time. My spouse is on the verge of tears whenever the annual inspection approaches. She knows that no matter what we do as a parsonage family -- no matter how clean and tidy we try to make our living space -- it will never be good enough. She knows that some church members will talk behind her back about the imperfections.
Yet, as the pastor I must live in the church parsonage. I have to try to please this committee, no matter how I feel. I hope you can begin to understand why a parsonage will never be my home. It provides a place for my family to dwell, but it will never be a true home where we can be at ease. Our children can't decorate their rooms the way they want because the paint shade might offend the church members. Our lawn might not be manicured as some church members would like. There might be toys in the yard or handprints on the walls, and we have to be concerned about that.
I did not come into the ministry expecting a mansion to be provided. I also didn't expect to have to live with my family in a museum. It is the parsonage, but it will never be my home.
The pastor who submitted this article requested anonymity.