Monday, October 11, 2010

Pastors and the Housing Crisis

Collin Hansen posted the following article at The Gospel Coalition site that I can relate all too well to personally.

(below is just a segment of the larger article, click through to see it all)

Pastors Search for Churches, Home Buyers

Killeen Bible Church had a solid plan in place. The leaders decided in 2008 that two pastors would share the pulpit after the man who planted the church 30 years ago retired to teach in a seminary. One pastor, recognized by the church as an elder, was already preaching regularly. The other led a fledgling church in South Dakota and planned to move back into the heart of Texas, where he had been discipled by the church’s long-time pastor. The plan made a lot of sense.

But it didn’t happen. The pastor in South Dakota owned a home. Everyone expected it would sell quickly, because the Lord had evidently called him to move. But after 10 months, the house still did not sell. And he could not afford the huge loss he would sustain by cutting the asking price. Killeen Bible Church briefly considered buying the house themselves and trying to sell it, but they decided against taking the risk.

Finally, the pastor and elders reached a mutual agreement in October 2009 to stop the process. The pastor in South Dakota stayed home and planted a church. Though their plans changed, everyone agreed that the sovereign hand of God had redirected them.

“When you believe in God’s decretive will, it’s not hard to deal with changed plans,” said Brian Thom, preaching elder at Killeen Bible Church.

God’s will may not always be evident to us. But it is clear that the sluggish economy and housing market have affected pastoral searches. Firms that help churches connect with clergy looking for new work report fewer open positions in part because pastors have lost so much money on their homes and cannot sell. This is a relatively new problem for the church. For at least the last 20 years, homes in much of the United States have appreciated in value just by standing. But recent reports question whether the heady days of equity gains above the inflation level are gone forever. Churches may even consider whether they should scrap housing allowances and return to parsonages.

Call Suspended By Risk
Tony Kroening, managing director for SIMA International, has conducted several high-profile pastoral searches. But previously he served as a pastor for 10 years after earning his MDiv at Bethel Seminary. So he understands the financial pressures pastors face, having spent that decade paying off seminary debt.
The last two years since the economy slowed have changed how his firm does business. In 2008 he worked on a staff of eight consultants who helped place pastors in churches. That staff has shrunk today to four and they supplement their work by serving faith-based nonprofits and Christian schools. Kroening and his team have also limited the type of positions they will recruit. In recent years they placed two associate pastors hired by churches who left behind their wives and children to sell the home. When the home did not sell after several months, the pastors resigned and moved back. Chastened by these experiences, Kroening said he will no longer help a church hire an associate pastor unless the church limits its search to nearby areas.

A growing church with means may be able to provide an extra $50,000 to $100,000 to help a pastor relocate when he can’t sell his home. But smaller churches don’t have this option. And even larger churches can’t or won’t make such a sacrifice to fill associate or youth positions. Kroening said he worked with a megachurch in New York whose search came down to three candidates for a senior associate position. Two candidates dropped out of consideration when they couldn’t pay the price to move and took jobs closer to their homes or where they could buy less expensive housing. Another church he knows considered 300 candidates, eventually narrowing the field to two. Due diligence eliminated one candidate. The other dropped out at the last minute, afraid to make the move because he would take a huge hit when selling his house.

“There may be lots of pastors out there feeling a sense of call to move,” Kroening said. “But that call isn’t strong enough to make them take the financial risk.”

Not Just a Housing Problem
Pastors living in homes whose values have decreased probably also lost money in their investments. Kroening said he’s talked with many churches where the senior pastor has postponed talk of succession. The same is happening in corporations and nonprofits. Leaders who lost money in their retirement accounts have found a new incentive to stick around for a couple more years than they originally planned. Meanwhile, elder boards who recognize their churches have stalled are not happy with the pastor’s decision to prolong his tenure, Kroening said. This factor contributes to even fewer open pastoral positions in a market already weakened by the housing collapse.

Churches might be in a different position today if more still housed their pastors in parsonages. Threatened with burnout, pastors have been counseled to separate their home and church life. Parsonages, often located near the church, make erecting such boundaries more difficult. Plus, financial planners advise pastors to take advantage of the tax benefits that come with a housing allowance and build equity.

Full Article Here.

1 comment:

OBdaDA said...