Compound interest is a powerful thing. Many Americans place their hopes for retirement in this reality. I shared this powerful concept with some teens in a disciple group recently and the connections that can be made to spiritual discipline are profound. Becoming rich, whether physically or spiritually, takes dedication, consistency, and lots of time. It was a great lesson that convicted me about my own spiritual practices which require more of all three elements.

The concept of compound interest was fresh in my mind as I was blessed with a conversation with a new friend who is in ministry. They shared an issue they were having as there was so much to do and not enough hours in the work week.

One answer to this challenge is empowering volunteers. Early in ministry, empowering and training volunteers is time consuming and difficult. Furthermore, volunteering for a new program or under a new minister takes greater risk than volunteering for the established counter-part. Investing in existing volunteers bears fruit similar to the effect of compound interests. The longer you retain a volunteer, the greater the Return On Investment (ROI) becomes. Below are a few ways that volunteers become more valuable over time.

Volunteer ROI


Most volunteers get into ministry much like I get into a cold pool, a little bit at a time. Over time, the volunteer becomes more familiar with the program and takes on more responsibility. I’ve seen some volunteers take more than 2 years to really bloom.


New volunteers are helping out with ‘your’ ministry, but over time it becomes ‘their’ ministry. I’ve seen volunteers start out because they were meeting a need and continue serving because they discovered God’s calling through that service.


From parents with questions about sacraments to newer volunteers needing guidance with the process, the increase in knowledge that volunteers acquire over time is one of the most valuable pieces. At a team training, I was using terminology specific to our program and a new volunteer asked “What is an XLT?” Before I could respond, a veteran volunteer moved her chair closer to the new volunteer and said “let’s sit together and I’ll get you up to speed with any questions you have.” It was an outstanding moment. Ultimately you want your team to train each other and share knowledge.

[tweetthis]Watch the power of compound interest come alive in your ministry. Here’s how..[/tweetthis]

All of this is dependent on a consistent vision of ministry, longevity, and a ministry that is open to calling forth a volunteer’s gifts in meaningful ways. So if you are new in ministry or simply need a breath of fresh air, look into giving an existing volunteer a bit more responsibility and watch the power of compound interest come alive in your ministry.