For years I’ve asked my coaching clients, “What’s your hobby?” (because, Church Leaders – including you minister-types – it’s critical we have at least one hobby). It’s been said, though, that “those who can’t do teach,” and so I was caught a bit off-guard when a cohort of ministers I was coaching turned the question back on me, “So, Kris, what’s your hobby?” I hemmed and hawed, confessed I probably needed to get one, and promised I’d report back to them the next month.

As I drove home I was thinking about the litter of Old English Sheeppuppies and their parents who were waiting there for me. I’d spent the previous three months watching our pregnant Abbi, anticipating the births of her babies, wondering how many were going to be born on the night of their delivery, waiting for their eyes to open, watching them grow daily, and trying to steel myself for the days when we would have to say good-bye to them. And I realized right there on that drive home that afternoon that Old English Sheepdogs were my hobbies!

They’d become a key part of my Ministry Mental Health Plan. They provided a reason to bring protracted meetings to a close and to leave the office sooner than later. They made me smile most of the time (though never while cleaning out their enclosure). They gave me something to talk about other than “church” and “work.” Indeed, they’d come to provide a great diversion during a time my prone-to-obsession mind was in greater need of diversion than usual from what had been some rather challenging months filled with “church” and “work.”

DISCLAIMER: Let me pause (paws?) here for a moment to acknowledge that I’ve now wandered away from the intended topic of this blog post, about what Old English Sheepdogs have to teach us about leadership. I didn’t think I’d be writing about the need for ministers and other church leaders to have a hobby, but here we are. And I’m going to continue going in this direction for now.

Too many of us are giving our mind, bodies, and, alas, even our souls to the church. My husband and I are guilty of talking church from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed and we’ve been known to keep each other up far too late into the night to share a church-related insight or two. Usually we can’t readily stop ourselves – even to the point that a minister friend once scolded us with, “Would you two please stop talking about church and look at the beauty around us!!!!!” as we drove around Oahu following a church planter conference that had ended the day before. I’ve been called “intense” when it comes to talking about congregational and judicatory transitioning. I know I suffer with hyper-focus and I’ve already confessed to my bent for church-obsessioning.

And I know I’m not alone. In fact, I know there’s a whole cadre of you out there suffering with similar maladies. The whole of your life is revolving around what you can and can’t do in your congregation. You’re unable to take your day off, under the guise of there being too much to get done or that so-and-so is in need of you. When you do take a day off, you’re checking your church email account (oh, that’s only when you’ve decided to keep your personal email account separate from your church account – which far too few of us do). You can’t seem to get away from obsessing on particular church members, particularly when conflict’s afoot. You’re unable to have a non-church-related conversation with anybody, not even your spouse.

In three words: get a hobby! You need something you can retreat to that’s going to make you smile. You need something that’s going to make you leave the office, to say no to not taking your day off, to compel you to take your vacation time, to get over yourself. You need a diversion. You need a hobby.

I’m in no way suggesting you retreat from those you’ve been sent to serve with. I’m not suggesting you trade your church-obsession for a new hobby-obsession. I am suggesting, though, you move past your reticence to learn you don’t really need to do everything you think you need to do. Move past your fear that some folks may not need you as much when they start doing for themselves those things that Jesus expects them to do (like caring for one another rather than relying on you to do it for them). Move past the anxiety that you might find something as, if not more, satisfying than serving others. Move past the regrets of not spending as much family-centered time as you could – should – have.

If you don’t have one already: get a hobby! Practice it. Allow yourself to enjoy it. Let it divert your attention for a bit each day. Let it be part of your Ministry Mental Health Plan. You’ll be so much more capable to lead like an Old English Sheepdog … which I really am going to talk about in my next blog post.