Ah, the trends! As missionaries that come and go every four years to the States, we can see the impact of cultural and social trends much more clearly than those that never travel. Several furloughs back we began to find more and more pastors buying their own homes and leaving parsonages sitting empty beside, sadly, many time, half empty churches.
The reasons given were many. Pastors afraid for their wives and families if they passed away. Afraid they would be left with no home. Pastors afraid for a lack of equity for the future with no house payment or mortgage. Pastors concerned that their time at one church might not be long. Pastors who just don't want to be "bothered" by living right beside the church...
I submit to you today that "bothered"is really the No. 1 reason that many pastors choose to live away from the church. Please remember this is my opinion and is not a reflection of any one pastor in particular. It is in no means true for all churches and all pastors. It is merely an observation to be considered based on a year of living beside a church.
While living right beside a church on this furlough we have been "bothered" day and night at least once a week by:
neighbors needing something
school kids with no place to go
hungry friends of our boys
teens who came too early for a Bible study
members looking for keys to the church
people in need of help
pastors looking for assistance at the church
helped clean the church
volunteered at school events
taken people home after church
Fed guys with no place to go. Housed young men overnight kicked out from their own homes. Hosted youth meetings and parties. Babysat for pastors and members. Helped with church events. Subbed at the school. Talked to neighbors. Assisted passerbyers wondering about the church. Helped neighbors with problems.
Yeah, sometimes we may have been "bothered" at the last minute, in the middle of the night, or at odd times. But using a trendy phrase I learned on this furlough - "It's all good." It was all good. We welcomed the "bothers." We were glad to have the opportunity to reach out directly into the nearby community of a local church. Our efforts may not have grand impact on the work of this church, but do bring into question the trend of not living right beside a church.
If you are a young pastor considering your first church, consider living in that parsonage. Put aside some funds every month for your future in an investment fund. Be "bothered" and make it a part of your ministry. You might have to set some rules. You may have to bend them occasionally, too. But I believe it will make your work more personal and more fulfilling.
I didn't have to run all over town to have a ministry while on furlough this year - all I had to do was answer the door.
p.s. And I was greatly blessed by sweet neighbors, church members bearing gifts, the joy of seeing new neighbors visit the church.