4-H committee, club troubleshooting: Save your club from common pitfalls

Do you have problems in your 4-H club or committee? There are some common problems and good ways to address them.

Is your club or committee running as smoothly as you’d like? There are many issues that can make it difficult to have good youth development at meetings. Here are some common problems and tips for how to deal with them.

Youth don’t show up to the meetings
There are many reasons why young people don’t show up to meetings. The first thing to do is ask them why they aren’t attending in the hope of being able to address that issue; however, be advised that you may not always get a direct answer to this questions. Here are some tools to encourage youth to attend meetings:

  • Youth quorum – Require a certain number of youth attend in order to conduct business. Similarly you can have a rule in your bylaws stating there must be an equal or greater number of youth than adults to conduct business.
  • Meaningful roles – Do youth have any jobs during a meeting or are they expected to attend the meeting, but not play a role in running it? Young people can run every aspect of the meeting; by assigning youth with specific tasks, you can make them feel needed. “Helping You Help Officers and Committees” has some information on what each officer can do.
  • Fun – Many meetings are boring. Having ice breakers, educational programs and friendly competitions at meetings can make them more interesting to young people. Michigan 4-H developed some suggestions for group building and can be accessed online. A good meeting might include 15 to 20 minutes of fun, 15 to 20 minutes of business, and 40 to 60 minutes of learning.
  • Request that for the sake of fairness to other members, youth either let the secretary (since they keep the records) know ahead of time when they won’t be able to attend, or tell another member they know will be at the meeting that they will not be coming.

Meetings run too long
How late do your meetings run? Young people often have homework, and if a meeting cuts too much into their homework time, they cannot – and should not – sacrifice their academics for a 4-H group. Keep meetings limited to a reasonable amount of time so that they can easily balance both homework commitments and 4-H participation.

  • Time limits - Have a time keeper limit discussion on any item to 5 minutes. If discussion goes beyond that, you have to cut something else off the agenda.
  • Tight agendas – Only allow items to be discussed that have been brought up ahead of the meeting and placed on the agenda. New items can be put in a “parking lot” (on a whiteboard or piece of paper) for the next meeting. You may allow new items at the end of the agenda if time allows.
  • Realistic agendas – If meetings are running to long, the chair needs to take items off the agenda. Forming committees to deal with the details can help as well.
  • Consent agendas – Many items, such as minutes, officer reports and committee reports can be bundled together and distributed before the meeting. They can be approved together if there are no action items.
  • Start on time – Don’t wait for people to show up to start the meeting. Start when you say you will. Those who are late miss out. Another option is to fine people $1 when they are late. The dollar goes into the club fund.

Sometimes youth are afraid or feel intimidated
Most adults do not feel they are intimidating to young people, but they can be without realizing it.

  • “Youth time” – Set aside a part of the meeting where only youth can speak. This will allow young people to build their confidence. Hopefully this will lead to youth speaking up during the entire meeting.
  • Speaking stick – Have a designated object – a stick, nerf ball, teddy bear, ect. – and the only person holding the object can speak. People who talk out of turn are fined (usually a small amount like a quarter) with the proceeds going to the club.

Can’t find a good meeting time or place
People are busy and it can be difficult to find an agreeable meeting time.

  • Use doodle.com to schedule the best meeting time for everyone.
  • Attempt to use conference calls, Skype or use AdobeConnect to meet. This eliminates travel time.

Adults won’t let kids fail, adults do all the work or adults make all the decisions
Adults are afraid to let young people fail because they are afraid that an event will not go well, money will be lost or conflict will arise if they let youth take control. Experiential learning tells us that it is okay to fail. We all learn by failing. As long as no one is going to get physically hurt, do something illegal or go bankrupt, youth will learn from the experience.

Refusal to change because “it’s always been this way” or “we tried that and it didn’t work”
The voice of experience is helpful, but it isn’t always correct.

  • Time limit – Try something new for a limited time. When you agree to try it, also plan a wrap-up meeting where you can evaluate and decide whether the new way is better or not. You can always go back if it doesn’t work.

Give some of these ideas a try in your youth club meeting and see how they work. Good luck at getting things to run smoothly and get things done!

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