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Annie F. Downs on what the Church gets wrong about fun, why it's essential to spiritual health

Annie F. Downs
Annie F. Downs |

Bestselling author Annie F. Downs is on a mission to encourage Christians to have fun — an increasingly difficult-to-implement practice she believes is directly related to spiritual and emotional health. 

“The New York Times just released an article about the power of fun, and one of the most viral TED talks being sent around is about the purpose of fun. It's what people are talking about in our culture because we miss it, and we need it, and we wish we had it,” the 42-year-old author, public speaker and podcaster told The Christian Post. 

“Everybody wants to have fun. It's the thing that they miss,” she continued. “And in the faith world, fun has gotten a little usurped by thinking that the only way to have fun as debauchery, that if someone's having fun, they're doing something bad. And that is not true. And in fact, I think fun is a really spiritually connecting piece of life … fun is actually one of those really important parts of our lives that we need to be the healthiest version of ourselves.”

To show Christians how, exactly, to re-introduce fun into their lives, Downs recently penned her latest book,Chase The Fun: 100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You Are. In it, she helps readers identify what they find fun — and then implement more of that into their everyday lives. 

For many people, she said, time and money are two of the biggest barriers to having fun. So, the easiest way to implement fun into one’s life is simply by putting it on the calendar “just like you do with dinners with friends, just like you do with your alarm clock, just like you do with the workout class.” 

And fun doesn’t need to be expensive. It can be gardening, cross-stitching or simply spending time with friends, she added.

“Instead of thinking that fun has to be expensive and weeklong and flying across the country, you realize, ‘Oh man, that was really fun on Saturday when we all went and tried three different kinds of guacamole from three different Mexican restaurants.’ Or, we all went to Sonic and got a drink and sat outside and played a game of checkers.”

And once “fun” is on the calendar, she encourages readers to start having honest conversations around the topic.

“Whether you have to confess to people, ‘Man, I do not know how to have fun anymore,’ or ‘I don't know how to have fun right now when I'm in the middle of this stress or this grief or this pain,’” she said. “Putting it on your calendar and having conversations about what sounds fun to you really is what brings it back into your life.”

A ministry leader in her own right, Downs contended that fun is, in many ways, related to spiritual and emotional health. She emphasized the incredible connection that happens between individuals when they have fun together. 

“Fun is essential because, for starters, it requires a level of vulnerability that we need to practice,” she said. “Fun requires a level of vulnerability, whether it's jumping in a swimming pool or trying a new recipe or trying a new restaurant. It all just requires a level of vulnerability. We really need that, but also, it really breeds connection.”

Annie F Downs
Amazon

Jesus Himself, she said, was “fun.” she pointed out that in John 2, Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding — and “no one's inviting a bunch of 20-year-old guys that aren't fun to their wedding.” A former elementary school teacher, Downs said it always struck her that children also loved Jesus, and kids “don’t love people who aren’t fun.”

“There was something about Jesus that was really fun,” she said. “And so, when we model that in our lives by choosing fun for ourselves, by tasting it in our own lives, by inviting other people into it, we're actually modeling an attribute of Jesus.”

One of the most sought-after Christian speakers today, Downs influences millions through her books and her KLOVE Fan Award-nominated “That Sounds Fun” podcast, which has been downloaded over 64 million times. 

In March 2021, Downs launched her own network that is now home to 16 shows, including podcasts from Christian artist Matthew West, motivational speaker Carlos Whittaker and others. 

Currently, about 3,500 “That Sounds Fun” podcast listeners who call themselves “chase the funners” are reading through Chase the Fun together with Downs, and already, the book is changing lives.

“The process that happens in that 100 days of tastes of fun, not only helps you find a hobby … and not only helps you realize, how important it is if you've loved an instrument in middle school, you can pick it back up again, but these moments of deep heart change that say, ‘Fun is a spiritual thing, and I'm having this moment with God and the people in my life who are opening my eyes to a wound, a place of pain, a memory,’ something that stopped them from the life they wanted to have that they're inviting back in.”

Though she wants Christians to rediscover fun, Downs ultimately wants to point listeners to Jesus. Her book is also featured in mainstream stores like Target, public schools and libraries — all places she hopes will serve as a “bridge” to the Gospel. 

“My hope is that people who don't know God and don't believe everything we believe will pick this one up and it will bridge them to the Bible and bridge them to Christ,” she said. 

“But when I'm thinking about our believer friends, I'm thinking, ‘Man, I want people to embrace fun so that they experience, really deeply experience, what God is like in those moments, and what it looks like to make space and to rest.”

“There's just so much lost in our business,” she added. “And it's not only fun, but it's also connection and rest and sitting and just being fun. When you make space for fun, you make space for a lot of stuff like that. And so, my hope is that this helps people make space where they don't have it.”

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: leah.klett@christianpost.com

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