The Pastorium Defined

Joshua 13:33

Historically, it has been a common practice for a local congregation to provide living quarters for the pastor and his family. This practice is intended to meet the minister’s practical needs, and it allows smaller congregations to supplement a meager salary with lodging, which can enhance the attractiveness of a church to a prospective preacher. The term “pastorium” was coined around the beginning of the 20th century, since the purpose was to house the pastor. A “parsonage” is synonymous and more often used in the west.

My dad was never called “parson” and rarely called “pastor.” He was most often referred to as “preacher.” I never heard the house called a “preacherage,” although some remote schools provided houses for their teachers, and those were called a “teacherage.” I know we never lived in a “preacherium” either. It was always the parsonage. “Tales from the Pastorium” has a nice eerie quality about it, kind of like “Tales from the Crypt” but with the full endorsement of the Almighty.

Regardless the moniker, all I ever really knew was that was where we lived, and a dozen other people had a key to it. The Building and Grounds Committee chairman needed one, in case something needed repair. The Women’s Missionary Union president needed a key to insure the drapes and carpets were in good condition. The Deacon chairman needed one for general oversight purposes. Each of these provided a copy for his or her spouse, in case their own key was lost.

Recently, it has become more common for a pastor to own his own home. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to build equity toward retirement, since he will have to buy a house at that point anyway? I used to resent the fact that we never owned our own house and always had to remember to keep the walls clean.

In the Old Testament, God has commanded Moses and Joshua to divide up the land by tribes. Each tribe, save one, will receive a proper inheritance. The Levites, however, got no inheritance. They were provided a place to live, but that’s all. It reminds me of the famous scene from Willy Wonka, when Gene Wilder looks at the young innocent lad and sternly spits out, “You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!” Thus, God blesses his chosen priests from the elect tribe from his prized nation. It makes no sense…unless we get something better. Instead of getting an inheritance from God, the priests were promised God himself.


At this writing, my wife and her sister are strategizing how to make the best use of land inherited from their parents. It’s not an easy conversation, and it’s not an easy topic. They would have much rather had unconditional love and affection from their parents. Yes, they were well-provided-for financially, but they lacked some emotionally. My father lavished his love radically on his children, but we had no inheritance, other than a legacy of honest, passionate ministry. Maybe that’s why, as an adult, I freely chose the pastorium for my home.


Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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