By Tim Patrick, DOM Beauregard Association
Does your church have a parsonage? In many locations parsonages are becoming a thing of the past. However, in many rural areas they have served and continue to serve a worthy purpose.
A parsonage can be a benefit to a rural church when seeking a new pastor because it provides adequate housing requiring no financial investment on the part of the minister. It can also benefit a pastor because of the difficulty in finding housing in rural areas.
However, there are some issues that need to be considered for the church that provides a parsonage to its pastor. By addressing these issues a church can minimize the burden of the parsonage and maximize the blessing for both the pastor and the church.
1. If your parsonage is next door to the church, educate your people about proper etiquette. Encourage your people to respect the pastor’s privacy by not dropping by unannounced to ask for keys or, heaven forbid, by spying on his family life (oops – did I say that?).
2. Remember, if you consider the parsonage to be a part of his salary package, do careful research to determine that you are paying a fair salary package beyond providing him with housing.
There are several things to keep in mind. Your pastor is required to pay Social Security based on the fair rental value of the home. If you consider the home to be part of his salary you are penalizing him twice. You are reducing his salary, plus, the IRS is requiring him to pay Social Security on the home.
Also, be clear about utility costs. If the pastor is expected to pay the utlities make sure you are reasonable with your compensation. This could add a financial burden to the pastor’s family.
3. A “big picture” concept to keep in mind is the pastor’s retirement. Many pastors faithfully serve God and live in church parsonages their entire ministry. However, when they reach retirement age, they have nowhere to retire to – no home. You might talk to an accountant about how you can offset this inequity.
4. Encourage your pastor and his wife by seeking their opinions when changes are made to the parsonage, i.e. new flooring, paint, whatever …. Remember, for all practical purposes it is their home for as long as they serve your church. Also, ask their feedback about repairs that need to be made.
5. Please do not ask your pastor and his family to live in sub-standard housing. Ask yourself this question, “Would I live in the home in its current condition?” Keep the house up to date and well maintained.
6. If provide a parsonage, ask a consultant to review your pastor’s salary package. There are individuals who work with this subject every day. They can give a fair assessment of your situation.
A consultant will see things and know things you may not have considered. Also, there are compensation studies that will give you guidance on this subject. Relying on opinion and conjecture can lead to unfair compensation practices.
7. When the new pastor is transitioning to your church, do a walk-through of the parsonage with him and his family. Ask them to provide input concerning any issues that might need to be addressed before they move in.
I don’t think any of us want to “muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” By giving attention to the issues previously mentioned, the parsonage will be a blessing to both the church and the pastor’s family and not a burden to either.