We use words all the time that we’ve not thought about the meaning, intent of the word itself.

And my experience over the past 2 weeks of vacation proved something to me afresh: A lot of people have no idea what recreation means… they don’t have a personal understanding or philosophy of recreation. 

Recreation – activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.

The process of being created again.

Synonyms – pleasure, leisure, relaxation, fun, enjoyment, entertainment, amusement; play, sport;

Antonyms – work


Here’s something that’s very interesting to me. Despite a culture that celebrates, supports, and invests heavily recreational activity, according to Google the usage of the word “recreation” is on the decline.




What’s Recreational to Me?

As a Christian there’s no way to argue that recreation is not part of God’s plan for a healthy life.By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3) When God said He “made it holy” that means that one day per week… the seventh day we refer to as Sabbath… is set apart from all the others as a day of rest– to stop creating and to re-create. Notice that the Sabbath day in Genesis 2 wasn’t set aside for worship… it was set aside for rest

So when it comes to the question, “What’s recreation to me?” it is defined first as something set apart from my day-to-day life and second as something that isn’t work.

For me, most recreation / Sabbath activities / vacation are loosely boundaried activities. My ministry life is highly integrated with my personal life. For instance, this blog is part ministry and part hobby. Sometimes writing a blog post is absolutely work and other times it is absolutely hobby. The difference is nuanced, I suppose only I know the difference between something written for fun or as a release and something that’s written because I have to do it for work. Another example would be my social media usage. Sure, there are definitely times when I post things for work on various social media accounts, both personal and professional. So does that mean that if I’m on vacation I can’t post a picture on Instagram to share something with my friends or just to document something cool? Again, that’s nuanced because so many of my friends are also part of my ministry. (work) It’s what happens inside of me that’s set apart or holy.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have strictly boundaried times. One boundary I have for myself on vacation is that I don’t take a computer. One of the boundaries I set-up for myself this year was that the first half of my vacation I kept my phone in the glove box of the car rather than my pocket. We also asked the kids to leave their electronics in the car so that when we were camping… we were camping.

On a smaller scale, recreation can be taking the dog for a walk or heading to the beach on a Sunday to boogie board or go to the zoo. It can be sitting down on a Saturday and binge watching Deadliest Catch or meeting a friend for a beer or taking my kids to an Aztec game. All of those are decidedly non-work.

Recreation and Being a Husband/Dad

One thing that we’ve discussed in our house over the last year is that different people in our family recreate in different ways. I travel a lot, I go a lot of places, a lot of my work is the action of go-ing. So the most relaxing thing I can do is not go anywhere. I long for a small-life vacation where we don’t do much, where the biggest thing we do is make a move from the beach to the hot tub or we’re just too lazy to make dinner.

But my family, Kristen specifically, recreates best by doing stuff. They want to go to somewhere new and see everything. They relax while I drive. 

An essential part of having a personal philosophy of recreation is having open conversations about what each person finds recreational. (Harder for little kids to articulate, but Megan and Paul can tell us what they find relaxing versus what they find boring versus what they find “work.”) But having those conversations has helped us create good compromise. For instance, we spent 5 days in Yosemite with a daily activity of going somewhere. But we also spent 5 days in Cayucos doing nothing. One of the most relaxing things, for me, about our beach vacation was that I didn’t drive for a few days. The minivan didn’t move and that was relaxing to me.

5 Steps to Creating a Philosophy of Recreation

So I’ve made the case. I think it’s useful to take a little time to actually write out a personal philosophy of recreation. Heck, it might be the most soul-saving thing you do in the next year. Here’s how I’d recommend getting started.

  1. Start with creating a definition of recreation. What is it? What is it to you? Specifically, what activities do you find recreational? Are there any thing that some people find recreational and you don’t? (example: I don’t really find going to the movies recreational because it’s expensive… but watching a game on TV? Totally recreational.)
  2. Next, define some boundaries for recreation. Here’s a pro tip: You won’t recreate well if you just try to plug it into the white, empty space on your calendar. If you know you suck at recreation than I’d encourage you to create an appointment 1-2 evenings during the week and a specific 4-6 hour block of time over the weekend. I actually think you need boundaried space for recreation every day in short bursts, one dedicated time during a work-week, and at least a half-day over the weekend… plus a couple really good vacations per year.
  3. Experiment a little to see what works for you. Look, until you’ve tried a few things you might not really know what works for you. Even forcing yourself into something you might ultimately hate isn’t bad, it’s just an experiment. Play with the idea of recreation… and I guarantee that your idea of “what’s restful” will change over time. We used to think backpacking was recreational. And right now? The idea of dragging myself from campsite to campsite sounds like way too much work. Stuff changes, keep experimenting.
  4. Take the time to write it down. Way back in my undergrad days I actually had to write a paper called my “Philosophy of Recreation.” I thought it was stupid to have to write it out. But you know what? I’ve referred back to it, revised it, and re-written it a couple of times. I’ve found having it in writing really helps me… primarily because I acknowledge that recreation is part of God’s plan for me.
  5. Verbalize it with the people you love. Kristen and I have been married 18 years and it’s only in the past 4-5 years that we’ve taken the time to really articulate to one another what we find relaxing. We can laugh about our differences in vacation styles but we went on some vacations where she was way too bored by my sitting by the pool for days and I was way too stressed out by driving all over the place exploring. It wasn’t until we started to talk about it that we’ve started to create better space for one another inside of our recreation. (And outside of vacation, we have some shared recreational activities… but most are individual, stuff we do with friends or solo.)

I’d love to hear about your philosophy of recreation in the comments. How has this helped you in your life? 

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