4-H club meetings are the foundation of the experiences that youth will have in 4-H. The 4-H club meeting is a key delivery method for 4-H programming, so having effective and successful 4-H meetings is essential to engaging youth in a great 4-H experience. Well-planned meetings allow youth to:
- acquire new knowledge and share ideas,
- develop self-confidence, leadership, citizenship, and other life skills,
- participate in decision making,
- develop responsibility and commitment,
- make new friends,
- enjoy recreational activities,
- learn and use parliamentary procedure,
- work on projects.
Setting the Stage
The initial work for a 4-H meeting takes place long before the actual gathering. The organizational leader should consider the Eight Essential Elements in all 4-H club experiences:
1. A Positive Relationship with a Caring Adult
A caring adult acts as an advisor, guide and mentor. The adult helps set boundaries and expectations for young people. The adult could be called supporter, friend, or advocate.
2. An Inclusive Environment
An inclusive environment creates a sense of belonging, and encourages and supports its members with positive and specific feedback. Healthy groups celebrate the success of all members, taking pride in the collective efforts of all participants.
3. A Safe Emotional and Physical Environment
Youth should not fear physical or emotional harm while participating in a 4-H experience, whether from the learning environment itself or from adults, other participants or spectators.
4. Opportunity for Mastery
Mastery is the building of knowledge, skills, and attitudes and the demonstration of the competent use of this knowledge and skill by a proficient practitioner. The level of mastery is dependent on the developmental ability of the individual or youth. The development of mastery is a process over time.
5. Engagement in Learning
An engaged youth is one who is mindful of the subject area, building relationships and connections in order to develop understanding. Through self-reflection, youth have the ability to self-correct and learn from experience. The engaged learner has a higher degree of self-motivation and an inexhaustible capacity for creativity.
6. Opportunity to See Oneself as an Active Participant in the Future
The ability to see oneself in the future is to have hope and optimism to shape life choices, which facilitates the transition into participating in the future.
7. Opportunity for Self-Determination
Believing that you have impact on life’s events rather than passively submitting to the will and whims of others is self-determination Youth must develop a sense of influence over their lives, exercising their potential to become self-directing, autonomous adults.
8. Opportunity to Value and Practice Service to Others
Finding yourself begins with losing yourself in the service of others. Service is a way for members to gain exposure to the larger community and, indeed the world itself.
Elect officers, appoint committees, and train the youth leadership to assist the club to plan and conduct the club’s yearly program. Visit the officer resource page for officer handbooks (ohio4h.org/families/members/officer-resources).
The planning committee consisting of volunteer advisors and club officers develops a yearly plan at the beginning of the club year. Meetings contain business, project work, educational programs, community service, recreation, and social activities. All of these should be included during the year for a well-balanced program, but all do not need to be a part of every meeting. The members decide what to include and when, with the assistance of the volunteers. A club meeting outline provides a structure for conducting a meeting.
The 4-H Club Meeting “Wheel”
Make sure 4-H club meetings include a balance of recreation, education, and business. Use the 4-H Club Meeting Wheel (Figure 1.) to help guide the 4-H club meetings.
1. Group Decisions (15-20 Minutes)
The business section should demonstrate democracy in action. Members learn how to express themselves in a group, listen to the views of others, come to consensus to reach a decision, and abide by majority rule. Groups should utilize correct parliamentary procedure (https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/4H-11). A typical business agenda includes:
- call to order
- pledge of allegiance and 4-H pledge
- roll call – answering in any way the group decides
- officer reports
- committee reports
- old business
- new business
2. Program or Activity (40-60 Minutes)
“Learning by doing” is one of the 4-H program’s unique strengths. This is the place for members to give demonstrations, work on project books, participate in tours, conduct community service, and complete other activities. Use a variety of activities to involve members in program planning, self-esteem development, and decision-making. Ingenuity and creativity can make this section of the meeting interesting and active. Provide adequate workspace during project work to make learning easier.
3. Group Building (15-20 Minutes)
A variety of fun activities add enthusiasm and enjoyment to the meetings. Clubs can have a recreation committee or a recreation officer to plan these activities or meetings. A few ideas are games, charades, relays, sports, puzzles, party for parents, picnics, and hikes. Refreshments can be a part of recreation, with different families responsible throughout the year.
Frequency of Meetings
Clubs are encouraged to meet on a monthly basis (minimum of six meetings per year). Except during fair and holidays, they should try to meet throughout the year. Sometimes project groups can meet separately from the regular club meetings so they can devote more time to actual project work.
Use a variety of methods to convey messages to members and parents including phone, face-to-face, media, written notes, newsletters, and social media. Repeat important dates and events at several meetings. Distribute or make easily accessible county and club calendars, constitution, project requirements, and copies of assignments to each family. Communicate with parents about club meeting locations and beginning and ending times. Many clubs have an office for a reporter in charge of reporting and documenting club activities to the local media and local Extension office.
Evaluate and celebrate the club’s success. Examples include having a special recreation day, end of the year party, club potluck, or an achievement celebration day. Recognize members for their accomplishments and hard work throughout the year.
Know what needs to be accomplished at each club meeting. Make sure each member has a chance to do and learn something at every meeting. Keep members involved and include variety to help 4-H members learn and grow through club work.
Nebraska 4-H Youth Development. Planning Effective Meetings. University of Nebraska Lincoln, retrieved from 4h.unl.edu/documents/Planning%20Effective%20Meetings%201.pdf
The Ohio State University. Eight Essentials Elements, retrieved from ohio4h.org/about
The Ohio State University (2016). Ohio 4-H Volunteer Handbook, retrieved from ohio4h.org/volunteers/volunteers/club-leaders/ohio-4-h-volunteer-handbook.
This fact sheet, originally published in 1999, was written by Carolyn Wilson, Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development, Guernsey County.