Return on Investment

When I was growing up I taped this quote above my bed so I would see it everyday when I woke up in hopes that it would motivate me to work hard that day:

When I was first on Young Life staff and was riddled with anxiety about my ‘success’ as a staff person I came across this quote from Mother Theresa so I replaced the old champion quote with this:

 “I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness.”

There has been a push in recent years in non-profit circles to adopt the business concept of ROI (Return on Investment). There is even a new acronym for it SROI (Social Return on Investment). I am hopeful that being as strategic in the non profit world as we are in the for profit world will help us alleviate a lot of the world’s problems.

 The problem is impacting lives isn’t formulaic. 

Mary Ellen is a Young Life leader and she is one of my heroes. She loves without expectation of anything in return. For four years she pursued and followed up with a group of girls whose lives didn’t reflect that Mary Ellen was having an impact. They had stopped coming to Young Life for the most part but Mary Ellen would meet them for coffee or take them out to a meal. Sometimes they would call her. Often she would call or text them and get nothing in return. Mary Ellen was (is) committed to them because she loves them not for how they may fit into her plans or someone’s investment.

Mary Ellen could have invested her time differently. ROI thinking would say she should have stopped wasting her time on these girls and moved on to a new group. ROI would say that these girls were taking Mary Ellen from someone else more deserving. Maybe if I was a better leader I would have told Mary Ellen to give up on them. The truth is it wouldn’t have mattered if I did because Mary Ellen wasn’t doing it for me. She was doing it because that is what Christ does for her. Christ didn’t think one person was more deserving than the next. Christ didn’t consider anyone a waste of time

I don’t have a happy ending to share about Mary Ellen and her girls. Maybe I will someday but for now it is part of what makes Mary Ellen one of my heroes.

The bible makes it clear that it is easy to love those that love you in return, anyone can do that.

We are called to something greater.

At another place the bible tells some stories of a bunch of faithful people and then it says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”

ROI makes sense. The Gospel doesn’t.

ROI makes sense. Love doesn’t.

ROI sounds a lot like success. Mary Ellen sounds a lot like faithfulness.

 I want to be someone who loves more than I want to be someone who makes sense.

3 Responses to Return on Investment

  1. SteveSherwood September 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    This is a great post, Jon! I agree, wholeheartedly, AND find it hard to actually live this way.

  2. jonhoughton September 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Thanks Steve. I find it very hard to live this way— that is why I am writing about it!

  3. Tonita November 3, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    You must take part in a contest for probably the greatest blogs on the web. I will advocate this website!

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