I recently began a sole pastorate at a congregation about 30 minutes from my home. Until recently, I have not had a landline phone, but just hooked one up to try to save on cell phone minutes. My husband was upset that I published the home number in the church bulletin because he was afraid that it could be looked up to see our address. I then informed him that usually, the pastor shares her address with the congregation for the purpose of receiving correspondence at home, etc., and that's it just a normal practice. I told him that at my last pastorate (where I was Asst. Pastor), our address had been listed in the directory. He was upset about that and said he didn't realize it and would've been unhappy if he'd known. Part of his concern, especially in this new church, is that he is a manager at a local industrial business, which puts him in the position of having to fire employees at times. There happen to be two employees who attend this church, thus would have access to the address if/when it's published. I think my husband is overreacting and don't see a problem sharing the address, even with his employees as members. What are your thoughts on this, and any possible alternatives? In some churches, there is a parsonage, and then of course the members obviously know where the pastor lives. Though this is not the case, I feel as though I'm hiding something if I don't simply share the address.
Matriarch Jennifer writes:
What a good thing it is that you want to be available to the new congregation and still sensitive to your spouses concerns about safety and privacy! I think you did a thoughtful thing in trying to save on cell phone minutes (if a landline phone does, in fact, end up saving you money) and allow the congregation you serve to be in touch with you. I think you’re right, that many congregations are aware of their pastor’s address, but perhaps not all.
The added dimension of not wanting to raise questions by departing from a previous practice (publishing contact info in the bulletin) is a reasonable one, too. My hunch is that you may have help --right where you are—in sorting this out.
I wonder if you have a personnel or an administration committee where you’re serving, or some trusted folks from the committee or group that called you to serve there, whom you could ask about expectations and contact information. It may be helpful to hear from them, if you don’t already know their feelings, what would be acceptable. I would not hesitate to share with that “sounding board” person or group that you don’t want to create new issues by being circumspect about your living arrangements, but that your spouse has a desire, because of his employment, to be concerned about making your home address public.
And ps: If it’s not too late to explore unlimited cell phone minutes, you may discover that it’s still cheaper to maintain only one phone and protect your family privacy as well.
I think Jennifer's reply was very complete and also very compassionate. I remember the days when most pastors lived in a parsonage and there was no escaping having everyone know where the pastor lived, and probably very little privacy for the pastor's family. (The pastor at my church growing up lived right next door to the church.) In my first call in a small rural parish I once had a woman seeking shelter from her abusive boyfriend come to my front door, so I lived knowing that everyone in my community knew where I lived.
Singing Owl says:
I confess, I think it would be nearly unthinkable for a congregation not to know where their pastor lives! Of course, every congregation is different, but I think that it would indeed look as though you were hiding something if you refused to disclose your address. This is especially true if the church has a printed directory. I’m sorry about your husband’s distress, but I do think he is overreacting. Being at least somewhat accessible is part of being a pastor of a church.
Sunday's Coming writes:
Privacy is important – especially for families. You don’t have to worry about ‘hiding something’: if people have a number where they can reach you that’s good. In the UK you can have a number ‘ex-directory’ which means people can’t simply look up the address – to protect your partner – is this possible?
If people need to be able to write to you is there maybe a church address, an office or something, where they can send things for you to pick them up? You can of course explain this to a management committee/elders meeting/committee of some kind and explain why your home address is not in the public domain. I hope they are wise enough to understand and not make a big deal of it. Good luck & God bless.
It's an interesting dilemma our colleague finds herself in, and not one I think previous generations of pastors faced. And it is difficult for some in other professions to understand the accessibility required of the pastor. What advice do you offer to this pastor? How would you balance the need between what the church needs and what her family needs? (and wow, isn't that what so many problems we have boil down to?!)