Time Equals Treasure

Youth Activity: Participants discover how their time can equal dollars to help their community. See the handout for supplemental faith-based discussion questions.

“My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years, or 4,000 hours, over the rest of your lifetime to the service of your neighbors and your nation.” ~President George W. Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address  


Print30 minutes

The youth will

  • determine the amount of money they donate by using their time and talent to volunteer in their community.
  • identify how much money volunteers donate to the community.
  • reflect on their individual impact on the community.
  • Pen and Paper
  • Calculator
  • Play money equal to the minimum wage times the number of people in your group plus extra play money
  • The amount of the minimum wage for your state
Home Connection: 

Ask the members of your group to talk with their family members to figure out how much money in time and talents they have given to the community. Ask them to report back at the next session so the group can figure out how much all their families have given.

  1. The facilitator asks the participants if anyone has $20 they would like to give to their community today. Listen to what participants say about giving their own money. Participants may say that they would like to give the money but they do not have that much money. Explain that this activity will help them figure out how time equals money and that they do have valuable time to give to the community. Today we will look at how the value of time equals treasure or dollars that can be given to their community through volunteering. 

  2. Ask participants if anyone knows the minimum wage in their state. If participants do not know the minimum wage, tell them or have them look it up online. Explain that the government sets the minimum wage as the amount that is required for a person to support himself or herself. The rate varies by state and over time.

  3. Explain that today we are going to use the minimum wage figure to determine what the participants’ dollar value might be to their community through volunteering.

  4. Divide the participants into teams of 2-4 people. Ask the teams to write down ways they could give their time to the community. Assist the teams to think what they might do individually or as a group to volunteer in their community. 

  5. Once the teams have created their lists of how they could volunteer, ask them to figure out how much time their volunteering would take. For example: If a young person said they would volunteer by visiting someone in a nursing home, that might take two hours; or picking up trash in the neighborhood might take one hour. Each team should come up with total hours donated by that team. Ask each team how many hours they would volunteer. Write down and add up the total number of hours volunteered by the whole group on flipchart paper.

  6. “If you were paid minimum wage for each hour your whole group volunteered, what would be the total monetary worth of your group’s volunteering to the community?” Let the participants do the math to provide the dollar amount. (Answer is number of hours X minimum wage) Tell them that although they are volunteers, their work has a value to society. Volunteers throughout all communities have a monetary value.

  7. Ask the participants to estimate what the total dollar amount would be if all the youth in their class at school were involved in volunteering. This would illustrate the impact that the more young people volunteer the more time equals treasures is given to their community.

  8. Ask again who has $20 dollars that they would like to give to the community. Point out that you may not have money but you do have time and time equals really important money when you volunteer.

  9. Lead a discussion with the participants about why more people don’t volunteer and what they as a group could do to encourage others to volunteer.

  10. Invite participants to set a goal for themselves on the amount of money they would like to give to the community and then decide how they could do it by giving their time and talents.

  11. Variation: Give everyone walking in the door play money equal to an hour of minimum wage. Ask them to list all the things they could do with that money that would help the community. Then lead the young people through the activity to show them that their volunteering could do so much more probably than just the money.

  • What did you discover about money and volunteering today?
  • How do volunteers donate money when they don’t actually have money?
  • What would happen in our communities if no one volunteered? How would our community be different?
  • Why do you think President Bush challenged each American to volunteer 4000 hours? 
  • Why do you think people volunteer?