United Methodist Parsonages

I’m trying to get a sense of the norm regarding parsonage standards throughout the United Methodist connection and need your help. Here in the Tennessee Annual Conference there are published standards for clergy parsonages in our Standing Rules which lay out certain requirements for the house, and specifies what furniture must be provided. In a world such as we have today where there are as many churches with housing allowances as parsonages, the issue of parsonage furniture can be a pain for those of us who have our own furniture from living in our own spaces under a housing allowance, leading to issues of storage and expense (and who is responsible for that). If you wouldn’t mind, would you take a minute to answer the following questions in the comments:

1) Does your annual conference have formal standards for parsonages and if so, do they provide adequate housing for pastors?

2) What are the requirements for what furniture needs to be provided, and are there any rules on storage of parsonage or clergy furniture?

3) What would you change in your conferences standards?

4) Should the connection move to eliminate parsonages and instead encourage adequate compensation to provide for housing? Are parsonages an outdated relic of our history?

UPDATE: Also, if you have any funny parsonage stories you want to share it would be appreciated.

13 thoughts on “United Methodist Parsonages

  1. The parsonage that we lived in came with a refrigerator and a dishwasher. We provided everything else. I am not sure whether or not there are guideline for our district.

  2. The Virginia AC has some pretty clear guidelines found here:

    Section 3


    I’m an Associate and get a housing allowance and love it 🙂 On the other hand, I fully anticipate not purchasing a home for many years because I don’t want to get stuck with something should I get reappointed so in some ways it is a bit of a waste for me to pay rent. But, I rent from my lay leader so I consider this “parsonage-lite” living.

  3. A copy of the Detroit Conference guidelines can be found at http://www.gbgm-umc.org/port-huron/subPages/districtResources/parsStandards.html the minimum requirement is 3 bedrooms, accessible bathroom and laundry facility.

    The only furniture is refrigerator, washer and dryer. (It’s my impression that the “fully furnished” parsonage is mainly a southern and east-cost thing). If you have more furniture and/or stuff than a new parsonage can hold, you are on your own for storage or downsizing.

    It would be nice to see an extra bedroom added to the minimum requirements, but I don’t see that happening (we have 2 kids, so it means a cramped houses when guests are over). Internet added to the basic utilities would be nice too, but not a necessity by any means.

    Given the Michgian housing market in general, I’d be very nervous about switching to a housing allowance. We probably couldn’t afford anything where we currently serve, and couldn’t sell anything if the area in our previous appointment. As much as I don’t like the parsonage system, the idea of become a first time home buyer at my retirement, and my employer also being my landlord, it does make life easier (I couldn’t imagine having to go through the stress of buying and selling a house on top of all the other natural anxiety of a new appointment).

    Right now we do have a Flexible Housing Policy in place as well: http://www.gbgm-umc.org/port-huron/subPages/districtResources/flxHsngPlcy.html but our current Bishop is VERY anti-housing allowance (if you look at the guidelines as to everyone that has to approve it you’ll see). Before our current Bishop arrived there seemed to be quite a bit of movement towards housing allowances, and now I hear virtually no talk of it – I don’t know if that is a reflection of the current economy, or if people just no longer want to fight the Bishop over the issue. It’s probably a combination of both, with a little more weight on the second.

    1. Wow, Mike you responded fast!

      I was going to post something, but I think you summed it up quite well. I am with you on the whole idea of the employer being landlord as a positive. Like you, we could not afford housing even with the allowance.

  4. Indiana does have parsonage standards – they might be on the conference website. Our parsonages are furnished only with major appliances. My wife and I bought a home near a lake as an investment for the future. It is about an hour from my current appointment and we really enjoy getting over there to relax several days a month while building equity at the same time. Definitely did not want to be a first-time homebuyer at retirement, but also didn’t want to mess with buying and selling with each move – some friends have really gotten burned badly because of the collapse of the housing market.

  5. Texas Conference (Houston area) – very detailed standards – minimum expectations are 1800 sq. ft., 3 bedroom/2 bath. Not sure how this is “enforced.”

    Over the last several years, the conference policies transitioned from “furniture provided by church” to “furniture provided by pastor.” This included the covering of moving expenses by the conference.

    Should the parsonage system continue? I really think the tradition of “moving day” (multiple reassignments happening on the same week) is pretty well contingent on the parsonage system being predominant. I’m not sure that the “moving day” approach is healthy for our families, nor is it particularly theologically sound. Regardless of what is done with parsonages, having at least a small amount of time off between appointments would be a very wise thing to do.

  6. 1. New Mexico has parsonage standards printed in the conference rules. I believe the only time they are “enforced” is when a church purchases a new parsonage, otherwise it is between the church, DS and the pastor.

    2. At this point NM furnishes all furniture, including washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. I would prefer we go to a “pastor supply furniture” model so the churches can use their resources for upkeep of the home and not purchasing new furniture. I do believe the church should continue providing the appliances as in many cases they “fit” the space where they are intended..such as a kitchen, laundry room, etc.
    As one who has recently moved from housing allowance to parsonage, we asked the church to remove their furniture so we could use ours. Fortunately for all parties involved that worked out well so discussion about storage, etc was not in play. The church got rid of most of their furniture, but kept their dining room set which was very nice. Otherwise the furniture belongs to our family.

    3 and 4….in our conference it is roughly 50/50 housing allowance and parsonage. Having lived in both situations, I have found that the real difference is that whether or not a church provides a parsonage has become a location thing. In my experience in NM, the urban/larger churches generally provide a housing allowance while the smaller/rural churches generally provide a parsonage.

    I am a proponent of the parsonage.
    I believe the housing allowance is an inequitable way of providing housing for pastors. In my experience there has been no oversight or study done on what is an equitable amount required for a housing allowance in a community. Which results in a wide range of housing allowance amounts. The conference rules say that an “equitable housing amount is to be provided in leiu of a parsonage”…. what does equitable mean? I can think of many pastors that receive 12K, some receive 26K and some receive more than that, all of these are in the same community and in some instances in the same church. At least with a parsonage equitable means 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, etc…..and usually the home is in the mission field.
    Not to mention, in many instances (myself and colleagues) the housing allowance they received was in no way sufficient for purchase/rental of a home in the neighboring community/mission field around the church. Which resulted in the pastor living 20+ minutes from the church and the mission field they were to be available for. We lived 10 miles/15 minutes from our last appointment, which meant I had to work to get connected to the community surrounding the church.

    I know people complain about parsonages, but if we are to be in ministry in our mission field we need to live there as well. In many cases the parsonage allows us to do that in a way that a housing allowance wouldn’t, especially if the church was in a growing/high home value area and the housing allowance amount was insufficient.

    I know it isn’t a perfect system, you move in to a dirty parsonage, repairs need to be made, but in my opinion the ability to be in the mission field and visible far outweighs those inconveniences….especially when the church is filled with grace-filled people that want to help you make the parsonage “home”

  7. North Texas Conference has detailed clergy housing standards:
    2,000 sq. ft. or more
    At least 2 full baths
    At least one large living area with 2 recommended
    At least one dining area
    Garage or covered carport
    Located in residential neighborhood
    Located to allow for adequate privacy
    All standard modern appliances
    Adequate heating & cooling; central heat/air when possible
    Window treatments in every room
    New parsonages must be handicap accessible

    Exterior: landscaping, fenced backyard

    Clergy family is responsible for all other furnishings. We did away with furnished parsonages back in the early 1990s.

    We also allow for housing allowances but are cautioned about possible financial hardships related to the sale of a house and that housing allowances have no effect on pastor’s tenure.

    Housing allowances are probably more common in larger churches.

  8. I’m in Tennessee, so you know our standards, but personally (as a pastor’s wife) I think we should move away from the parsonage system. We are not in college, being assigned a dormitory. We are adults, and should get to choose where we live, based on what works for our family, not the convenience or preferences of the congregation.

    For what it’s worth, our parsonage exceeds standards, so it is not a matter of quality in our case, just a general principle. In an age where women (and husbands of female clergy, of course) have careers, why should one spouse’s job determine where the family lives?

  9. Memphis Conference has parsonage standards but they are treated as recommendations only; and rarely are they enforced. These call for all appliances, one bedroom, living room and dining room to be furnished. Should have central heat & AC. Garage or carport recommended. Oh, and a lawnmower.

    More and more pastors are opting for housing allowance, in part because of bad experiences with parsonages. But this is creating a real problem with making appointments. Developing into a two-prong system of parsonage-dwellers vs. home-owners, some willing to itinerate freely, others demanding to stay in a particular locale because “I own a house here”.

  10. The general public thought my private residence was the church parsonage in Madison Tenn. It was actually beside the church proper.

  11. After 25 years of parsonages – I am glad to be out of one. Even though the home we have is smaller then the parsonages we lived in and all of the expenses come out of our pocket it is so much nicer to have something that is ours.

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