Why Pastors Need Hobbies

By Aaron Earls

Half of pastors say they struggle with time management, according to Lifeway Research’s Greatest Needs of Pastors study. With all the responsibilities they face, it’s not surprising.

previous Lifeway Research study found 71% of pastors say they’re on-call 24 hours a day. And 63% report their role is frequently overwhelming. About 47% of pastors saying they find it challenging to take time for hobbies or interests.

The only thing surprising about that last one is that more don’t say the same.

Pastors may feel as if hobbies are a waste of their valuable time. Or they may feel pressure to not give the impression that they’re taking time for themselves. Yet, numerous studies demonstrate the mental and physical health benefits of having a hobby or interest outside of work, even if your work is ministry.

I spoke with several pastors about their hobbies, why they have them and how they feel it helps them (and ultimately their ministries). Maybe you can resonate with some of these hobbies or discover something new to try for yourself. You, your family and your church will benefit from you having a hobby or interest.


As a bi-vocational youth pastor and worship leader, Kevin Payne says he enjoys fishing on the rare occasions he has free time. He grew up around fishing and has gotten back into it in recent years. He says he enjoys being in nature and the “adrenaline rush when you get a big hit.” Payne also says he and his family benefit because they eat what he catches. It’s also served as an avenue for evangelism and discipleship.

Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church, outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, says he loves fishing because of his grandmother and family. He goes on his Sabbath day, “a day of delight and active, joyful rest.” He said, “Recharging while fishing is a blessing to me, my family and Transformation Church.”

Robert Hefner, pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, North Carolina, says he enjoys fishing and has added hunting in recent years. Both are excellent mental breaks he says. “On our staff, a few guys love the outdoors. Those are big deals in our church, too,” Hefner said. “Hobbies have been healthy rejuvenators and positive fellowship tools with like-minded men.”

Board games

Noah Lee, pastor of Tremont Baptist Church in Tremont, Illinois, says he’s been playing board games casually since he was a kid. Things changed when he moved to Tremont as a pastor and walked into a local board-game shop.

He says he finds playing board games both mentally stimulating and relaxing. Playing board games with others also allows him to get out of the church building and interact with non-church members. For Lee, his board game club has even changed the way he preaches. After having conversations about faith over board games with Steve, an atheist friend, Lee says he works to communicate biblical truth in a manner that reflects that relationship. “I try to imagine Steve listening to my sermons and asking questions,” he said.

Custom vehicles

Everett Peterson, a bivocational evangelist and pastor, enjoys working on custom cars and sees parallels to the gospel. “You start with a base vehicle,” he said, “often a literal wreck, and you rebuild it and transform it. The results are something ‘better than factory’ that many can appreciate, even non-gearheads and hot-rodders.”

Hobby helps

Other pastors enjoy practicing jiu-jitsu or other forms of martial arts, cycling, gardening, woodworking, playing music, video games, building Lego sets and a host of other activities. Some pastors may say they don’t have time for a hobby, but if you see their social media feeds, you often can tell scrolling and opinionating are their de facto hobbies. If you don’t have a hobby, look to do something tangible or that involves interacting with other people in person.

There will never be “enough time” for a hobby unless you intentionally carve out the time. You may feel taking time for a personal hobby takes time away from your numerous responsibilities. In one sense, it clearly does. We only have so many hours in a day, and you can only spend them once. However, when an exhausted and empty pastor gives hours to family and church, no one benefits as they should. Evaluate the way you spend your days and weeks. Most likely you can find some hours that can be devoted to an uplifting and encouraging hobby.

In many ways, pastors with hobbies can help set a healthy example for a work-obsessed culture. For many Americans, work bleeds over into every area of their lives. Careers can become idols. Your churchgoers need to see what it looks like to live a balanced life for the glory of God in all aspects.

If you’re still hesitant to start an activity for yourself, find something you can do with your kids, a hobby that allows you to engage your community or one that may open doors for gospel conversations with unchurched neighbors. Ultimately, find a hobby that allows you to recharge mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You and everyone in your life and ministry will benefit.

This post originally appeared at Lifeway Research.

Published July 1, 2022

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