Personal hobbies benefit pastors as individuals. But they also allow pastors to form connections with their communities and provide avenues to improve as effective communicators of biblical truth.
By Aaron Earls
While some pastors may believe they don’t have the time to invest in a hobby, that investment could enable you, as a pastor, to meet one of the greatest ministry needs.
More than 3 in 4 pastors (76%) say fostering connections with unchurched people is a top ministry difficulty. One way to establish those relationships is through a hobby that takes place outside the walls of the church. Yet half of pastors admit taking time for personal hobbies or interests is challenging.
Here are five ways hobbies can help pastors better reach the unchurched both inside and outside of their church buildings.
1. Improves personal health and happiness
Numerous studies point to the benefits of developing personal hobbies away from work. Having off-the-clock interests leads to better physical and mental health. Not only that, they help make a person more well-rounded and interesting to be around. Lifeway president and former pastor Ben Mandrell says hobbies help prevent him from becoming a “work machine.”Hobbies can help pastors avoid becoming a "work machine," says @benmandrell Click To Tweet
As you look to connect with those outside of the church, you should want to present a faith that leads to a life of flourishing. Having hobbies, growing as a well-rounded person, and maintaining good mental health will make Christianity more attractive to those apart from Christ. Having peace and composure in the midst of a challenging world will present you with opportunities to “give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15, CSB).
2. Bursts Christian bubbles
It can be hard to foster connections with the unchurched if you’re constantly surrounded by the churched. Pastors should spend time with their congregations. But if you want to meet those far from Christ you’ll have to go beyond those congregational relationships.
The growing number of bivocational pastors have a built-in advantage for connections with unchurched people. Their jobs often surround them with non-Christian co-workers and customers. For pastors who work full-time in the church, they have to do more. Hobbies can help.
When asked about their personal hobbies, numerous pastors mentioned how those interests helped them get outside of the Christian bubble and get to know non-Christians in their communities. A hobby can push you beyond your usual group of connections and help you get to know those around you.
3. Provides avenues for relationships
Some pastors may be particularly skilled at developing deep relationships with people they casually meet, but for most, those connections form more easily when they happen over a shared connection or interest. Hobbies help pastors move from knowing the name of an unchurched person to actually knowing that person.Hobbies help pastors move from knowing the name of an unchurched person to actually knowing that person. — @WardrobeDoor Click To Tweet
Every Tuesday night, I play basketball with a group of guys I would have otherwise never met. But now that we’ve been playing together for a year or more, I know their personal successes and struggles. Those relationships have blossomed over the shared connection of a sport we enjoy. I’ve grown as I’ve gotten to know these guys, but those relationships have also provided gospel opportunities.
4. Opens gospel doors
Religiously unaffiliated Americans are open to faith conversations but are overall less open than the average American. Crossing that barrier may be even more difficult for pastors who don’t have areas of common ground to start those conversations. When you have a hobby or interest that creates a connection with unchurched people, you have a key that can open doors for gospel conversations.
Because of my weekly basketball games, I’m able to share the love of Christ with those guys on Tuesday nights and beyond. We’ve been taking prayer requests and doing brief devotionals through John’s Gospel each week before we play. We text back and forth about our lives and ways I can pray for them. Those opportunities happen because basketball created a bridge. Think through hobbies or interests you have that can spark connections with those in your community.
Not only can personal hobbies help you as you seek to reach the lost in your community, but they can also help you better reach them when they show up to your church.
5. Informs and improves preaching
When the unchurched read the Bible or hear scriptural stories, they often have a unique perspective and different questions about the text. Pastors who spend time with the lost and have formed relationships with them over shared interests will be better equipped to address those questions in their sermons. Pastors with hobbies and resulting connections with the unchurched can respond to common objections with gospel truths because they’ve been around those who are skeptical and questioning.Pastors with hobbies and resulting connections with the unchurched can respond to common objections because they’ve been around those who are skeptical. — @WardrobeDoor Click To Tweet
As personal hobbies give pastors a bridge to share with the unchurched, outside interests can also enable the pastor to create a bridge for the unchurched to relate to the Bible passage. You can use your interests to provide sermon illustrations that non-Christians may connect with. And this could give them a better grasp the gospel message. The illustrations could also benefit young Christians and others in the church.
Hobbies can and do benefit pastors as individuals. But they also allow pastors to form connections with their communities and provide avenues to improve as effective communicators of biblical truth.
Aaron is a writer for LifewayResearch.com.