A Buck Ninety-One

Use a handful of change to evaluate what is important to you.

Group Outreach

Four students delivered four very different speeches at our recent high school graduation. I can only remember one. It was short and it was powerful. The young graduate, Kari, shared advice her dad had imparted to her on a family road trip when she was about ten years old. He had shown her a silver dollar, a fifty-cent piece, a quarter, a dime, a nickel and a penny. He related the components of the buck ninety-one to the value each person places on different things in his or her daily life. "What's it worth?" he challenged Kari. Her mom interjected that a buck ninety-one issue for her would be if one of her children died. It would take all she had just to get through that time. A buck issue, her dad added, could be purposefully spending time with family. Riding bikes together, dinner, vacations, weddings, reunions, and talking with one another are all positive ways to spend a buck. Young Kari included that her dad's job must be about a fifty-cent issue because it is important to the family that he work. As a high school graduate, Kari related to her peers that a quarter issue for them as students could be defeating their rival high school in sports—any sport—and dime, nickel, and penny issues could include hobbies and interests, making daily decisions, watching TV, cleaning their room, etc.

The principal idea behind the buck ninety-one, as her dad explained it to Kari, is that the value a person places on issues and situations can change daily. The most important thing to watch for, he advised, is spending too much time and energy on penny issues. It is easy to spend a dollar on a penny issue if it is not looked at in perspective. On this graduation day— "a buck ninety-one issue for the moment"—Kari took this personal challenge and used it to encourage her peers to evaluate their buck ninety-one each and every day and to spend it wisely.

This month, take some time to decide how much your small group is spending on outreach. Call ahead of time, and have each person bring $1.91 (a silver dollar or dollar bill, a fifty-cent piece, a quarter, dime, nickel, and penny) to the next meeting. Instruct the group that on the count of three they are to throw into the middle of the circle the value they perceive the group places on outreach, taking a few minutes to discuss why they believe their estimate is correct. Ask each person to retrieve his or her money and on the count of three throw in the amount they personally place on outreach. Take time to discuss the similarities and differences between the group and personal values. Next, discuss how there is a time and place for investing all values into outreach depending on the current need and/or ability to devote time and energy. For example:

a buck:

  • Praying and caring for an inmate's family (March 2003)*
  • Adopting a child through Compassion International or other agency (September 2003)*


  • Throw a baby shower for an unwed mother (August 2002)*
  • Form a book club for the summer (January 2005)*


  • Give a welcome basket to a person or family new to town (January 2002)*
  • Send a care package to a deployed soldier (March 2004)*


  • Write a love letter to a family member (February 2003)*
  • Set aside one hour in the coming week to write letters and/or emails to people with which you have unintentionally lost touch (February 2004)*


  • Pick up garbage in a parking lot, park, or neighborhood (October 2002)*
  • Have a small group garage sale (June 2002)*


  • "Round up" each purchase made in the coming week, leaving the extra change for the waitress, gas attendant, fast food worker, etc. (January 2005)*
  • Set a goal to meet and introduce yourself to five new people in the coming week (November 2002)*

Together, decide how much your small group will invest in outreach this fall. Consider spending a buck ninety-one over the course of several months by choosing separate outreach projects that require a varied investment of time, energy, and money. Peruse the Small Group Network archives for outreach ideas that best suit the abilities and circumstances of your group members. God calls every believer to invest part of his or her buck ninety-one into the lives of others. Together, the efforts of your small group can shine the light and love of Jesus into an often dark world.

*Dates indicate original article published at www.smallgroups.com

Individual Outreach

Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:

  • Buy a glass of lemonade at a child's lemonade stand and let the child keep the change from a dollar.
  • In the coming week, spend a total of ninety minutes praying for a neighbor.
  • Invest one evening in the life of an elderly person.

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