The Best Fun is Free!
by Mike and Elizabeth Murphy
A few years back, we listened as some neighbors recounted visiting one of the nation’s largest amusement parks. While they told us they had a great time, they also told us how much work it was, how exhausted they were, how expensive it was, and how glad they were to be home. They concluded by saying that some time soon, we ought to go as well! Obviously, something was strange about this testimony of fun.
Our culture bombards us with what is “necessary” when it comes to having fun. Most of the things society suggests are very expensive! One of the many things we appreciate about ministry life is that this type of fun isn’t even an option for our family. We simply can’t afford it! We’ve discovered that the best fun we have is free.
In our family, if we’re going to have fun together, it has to start with prayer. We begin our plans by praying for help to let go and put aside the demands of ministry. God built us for many things and having fun is one of them. We believe He had many enjoyable times in His life on earth and wants the same for us. Our couple and family time is as important as our ministry time.
We pray specifically for decisions concerning our leisure time. Do we visit extended family or would our time be better spent strengthening the bonds between the six of us? Do we plan a two week holiday that involves travel or spend long weekends closer to home? God has helped us to understand that planning plays a big part. We had to learn the importance of budgeting for vacation. This money may have to get reallocated when something unexpected happens, so we also set aside any “unexpected” income to use for vacation/fun time.
Keep it Simple
Another thing we’ve learned about fun is “the simpler, the better.” We have been on long trips where we have traveled a great distance at great expense and when asked, our children remember playing cards in the back of the van as the best part! It’s not about what you are doing; it’s about who you are doing it with. We enjoy movies, but with six of us, prices make this kind of family outing rare. We are frequent visitors to the video store and library, and Orville Redenbacher makes great popcorn with “movie theatre butter”! Some of our favorite fun times have involved snowballs and marshmallows, fishing poles and the local pond, walking and talking, and a temporary no-electronic devices rule. Ask God to show you what’s right under your nose.
This also teaches our children to be creative. When a friend’s family has a weekend free, they each make a list of three things they would like to do as a family. If funds are tight, the activities must be free. The goal becomes to do as many things as possible from each list before the weekend is over. Adults too! This shows our children that fun doesn’t end just because childhood does.
Saying Yes to Others
We have also learned to accept the generosity of others. From time to time, invitations come from gracious people who simply offer to share what they have with us. Whether it is a cabin, a dinner certificate, event tickets, a backyard pool, or the use of a recreational vehicle – these are gifts from God.
You Can’t Buy Fun
Finally, a word of caution. You can’t buy fun. The bill always comes. Whatever you do, do not charge it! It’s easy to rationalize that much needed evening out with your spouse or that “once in a lifetime” family vacation, but this is simply unwise. It’s a presumption upon the future and a trap. The Good Sense Budget Workshop teaches that when we use debt, we are telling God that He must provide. Family bonds forged during fun times bought on credit can quickly be broken by the stress of trying to figure out how to pay for it.
This year, make it a priority to enjoy the blessing of fun. The change in seasons is a perfect time to change your approach. It starts with prayer, planning, and priority. Consider it a ministry to yourself.