My 15-year old was standing next to the kitchen counter staring at me. He put his hands on my shoulders and shook me a bit, exclaiming, “Mom! I know there’s some fun in there somewhere. Can you please find it?!?”
Nailed. He was right. I wasn’t all that into “fun.” At least not recently.
When my children were very young, I was intentional about helping them have fun. I believed the best learning environments were filled with delight-directed activity and play. As they got older, there were times I forgot. Fun often felt like a pointless distraction. There were so many important things to be done.
One of the wisest men to ever live, King Solomon, addressed this concept: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. – Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)
Here’s the thing: I have crushed some spirits. Of my children. And some of my students. Even a few teammates. Spirit-crushing is not an invitation to flourish.
Earlier in this blog series, I shared our definition of flourishing as “to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.” [Oxford Languages]
Our definition calls for a “favorable environment” for flourishing. Throughout this series, we’ve explored some nourishing ingredients for flourishing. Another important ingredient of a favorable environment is fun.
There have been scientific studies about the benefits fun has on our lives. Thanks to research by the Institute’s Chief Influence Officer Mary Gunther, our teams have learned that fun:
- reduces stress
- increases resilience
- promotes motivation
- fosters a positive outlook
- offers a sense of purpose
- increases creativity and productivity
- enhances physical and mental wellbeing
- improves relationships and social connections
- improves overall life satisfaction and happiness
All of this has been shown to result in greater success in life – personally and professionally.
That sounds like flourishing to me.
Are your students complaining about the things you’re asking of them? Maybe it’s time to sprinkle in some fun. Do you work alongside adults who have grown weary? Perhaps there are ways to design some fun into your community.
I’m not suggesting everything will be fun. Not even that most of what we do will be fun. Only that we all need some fun in order to flourish. And our students need it. And our teams need it.
When our staff arrives at the Institute’s Training Center at the beginning of the summer, I ask team members to describe their roles. Each person usually details their specific roles and responsibilities… and then we talk about their real role: to design experiences.
We find that it’s vital to revisit this concept each year. We design favorable experiences (think: environments) for next-generation Christians to flourish.
In these environments, we invite young leaders to do really hard things. Often they reflect on their experience as challenging them to do things they didn’t believe they could. Along the way they have lots and lots of fun. That’s why they’re willing to do those hard things.
It turns out accomplishing hard things adds to the fun. It feels good to succeed at something challenging. In actuality, it takes fun to flourish. And flourishing is fun.
Fun is like a muscle. Use it and you’ll grow it. Stop and it atrophies – and soon your teen will be trying to shake it out of you. Maybe it’s time to exercise our fun muscles again.
A Blessing for Those Who Need Fun
When it feels like there’s always something more important,
something that really matters…
When days are filled with
assignments, lessons, tasks, to-do lists,
where boredom, cynicism, and apathy set in…
When there’s not enough daylight, or night,
not enough energy or strength,
not nearly enough sleep,
and no time for dreaming…
When we’re out of inspiration
and spirits are crushed…
Help us wait on you.
Give us strength to run and not grow weary.
Lift us up as if on eagle’s wings.
Bring laughter like medicine for body and soul.
Restore the joy, the delight, the fun.