Lessons Learned During 50 Years in a Pastor’s Home
By Debe Taylor
When I was just a few days old, my mom and dad brought me home to live in “the parsonage.” Obviously, I was far too young to understand how this would mold my life, but looking back I see it was a major factor. As the years passed, I did arrive at one conclusion—I did not want to marry a preacher.
Even though I attended a Bible college, I was not looking for a preacher boy to be my husband. So what did I do? I married a young man who was going to be a good, dependable layman. However, God had another plan; some might say a better plan. After ten wonderful years of marriage, God called my husband into the ministry. Really, God? Once again, I found myself living in a pastor’s home.
During my 50-plus years of parsonage life, I have learned a few things about God’s people and life in the parsonage. I share those lessons now, not because I am so wise or special; I want you to know we are in this together, and you have a friend in me.
Church members can be cruel. Don’t act shocked! You know it is true. During my teen years, I remember hearing the story of a church member who threatened my dad’s life. That was hard to comprehend. Though not to that extent (thankfully), through the years my family also has met with cruelty. Often, words and tone, not necessarily actions, are cruel. One church lady informed me we were living in “their” house, and I needed to take care of it. It may have been their house, but it was our home and “home” belonged to us.
Another church member told me, in front of another pastor’s wife, that I was the most difficult person in the church with whom to get along. I really wanted to tell him that, actually, many thought he was. I didn’t, but I sure thought about it.
When our daughter was a young teen, we let her go to a New Kids on the Block concert with other girls from the church. One man not only criticized us for letting her go, but also talked derogatorily about our daughter. In this mom’s book, his actions were not only cruel but also wrong on many levels. Most of God’s people are good and kind, but stay on guard. A nasty one gets through every now and then.
God has increased our family with His family. When our family moved from California to Oklahoma, we left behind one of my sisters and all of David’s family. Although we were moving closer to the rest of my family, the move was difficult. Yet, over the years, with every move, God has increased our family. We have a host of friends we consider brothers and sisters, even a few moms and dads. Our children had adopted grandparents throughout their growing up years. Church families included us in holidays, family gatherings, and even vacations. What a joy to have family from coast-to-coast and around the globe.
Financial struggles are real. Many times, the pastor’s pay does not stretch far enough to cover expenses. My parents never talked about the struggle, but we knew it was real. Mother was frugal. Dress shopping at a department store was a luxury. To dress five little girls, she would sat at her sewing machine for hours, and occasionally all night. She taught us to “smart shop” at the grocery store, to be careful of every dime we spent. I should have paid a little better attention to that lesson. Through the years, I have learned to meet these challenges on my knees. I have even prayed for money in the mailbox. By the way, God answered that prayer with a $1.50 rebate check. He has a sense of humor, you know.
Looking through cookbooks, I learned ways to make a chicken last three meals. Yes, it can be done, even with a family of four. Rather than taking vacations, we often searched for fun and free things to do close to home. We enjoyed “staycations” before they were the rage. Financial struggles can make you or break you. I’m thankful we allowed them to make our family stronger.
God always provides. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but God will provide. I can make that statement with confidence because I know it to be true. From early childhood, I remember God using His people to meet our needs. Widows in the church invited us out to eat or to their homes for dinner. Families in the church invited us over for Sunday dinner or Sunday evening meals after church. This was no small thing since there were seven of us. One church member would periodically bring us sacks of groceries. To this day, we remember his great generosity.
Throughout our growing up years, my sisters and I received hand-me-downs, and we wore them proudly. God’s people met our needs. They loaned us cars, babysat our children, purchased gifts for us, shared the bounty from their gardens, provided a listening ear, and so much more. God is faithful and He will provide. As the old hymn says, “How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.”
Goodbyes are difficult. Recently, one of my sisters reminded me that Mother hated to leave a church. No matter which church they left, she always told Dad, “That was the best church we ever had.” My husband and I hated to leave all three of the churches where we ministered. We shed tears at every goodbye. Right up until moving day, church members asked us to reconsider and stay. In those moments, it was difficult to look to the next place. We were leaving friends and family. You may be surer than sure it is time to leave, but that doesn’t make goodbyes any less difficult.
New adventures are waiting. For years, U-Haul used the slogan “Adventure in Moving.” We took them at their word. Every move we made to a new parsonage was in a U-Haul. We were always looking to the next adventure. To add to the moving adventure itself, we always stopped along the way for some family fun—a trip to Disneyland, visits with family and friends, taking pictures as we crossed state lines. (God surely had us pegged for long-distance movers.)
When we made a move from California to Oklahoma, our daughter said she was never riding in a U-Haul again. She meant it. When we moved from Oklahoma to Arizona, she rode in the car with me behind the U-Haul. She married while we lived in Tucson and moved to Tennessee by airplane. She missed out on the U-Haul move from Arizona to Arkansas. What an adventure she could have had. Due to a faulty gas gauge, we ran out of gas in western Texas.
Although the actual moves were always adventures, our best adventure was meeting a new church family, acclimating to a new place, and seeing what God was going to do with us, through us, and sometimes, in spite of us.
Too many grains of sand have sifted through the hourglass since my parents brought me home to that first parsonage. With time have come many life lessons. Taking the good with the bad, these lessons have shaped my life. And, I believe for the better.
Life in the parsonage can be difficult, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Through it all, I know God’s hand has always been there, building, shaping, providing, guiding, and encouraging.
I’ve had a blessed life, even with 50 years in the parsonage.
About the Writer:Debe Taylor enjoys semi-retirement, working part time for a real estate company but spending every moment possible with grandkids. She and her husband David live in Conway, Arkansas, where he serves as executive director of the Arkansas State Association.