4-H Members learn how to run a business meeting

Parliamentary procedure basics are used during 4-H club meetings.

4-H’ers are learning the basics of parliamentary procedure during monthly 4-H club meetings. 4-H clubs vote for officers to fill the positions of president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, who are then responsible for running the meetings.

What is parliamentary procedure? It’s the way that the school board, County Commissioners, Michigan House and Senate and even the United States Congress run their sessions. Of course, 4-H youth use very basic parts of the procedure, but it can be the basic foundation for a lifetime of service in communities.

According to the Basic Parliamentary Procedure for 4-H Clubs document found on the Michigan State University Extension Michigan 4-H Youth Development website, “Parliamentary procedure is an organized method for a group to accomplish their goals in an effective, fair and efficient manner. It is:

  • Effective by providing an orderly way to conduct the group’s business and make decisions
  • Fair because it is a democratic process for making a decision
  • Efficient by keeping the group focused. One item of business is disposed of before going on to another

Most parliamentary procedure is based on Robert’s Rules of Order, a book that describes the procedures for conducting items of meeting business.”  

4-H presidents are front and center at the club meetings along with the other officers. Working with adult volunteer leaders and county 4-H staff, officers learn the roles and duties of their office. The president leads the group through an agenda which typically starts with the pledges and a call to order, and then proceeds through the treasurer’s report. Here, the young person elected as treasurer gives the report of the club’s account. The treasurer learns the skills of balancing a checkbook and writing checks. The secretary also reports by reading the report of the last meeting.

From there, business is conducted and club members make motions to approve. Practicing these skills at 4-H club meetings is a great first start into the world of parliamentary procedure for youth! “Learn by doing” is the 4-H motto and the easiest way for youth to learn leadership skills. 

A basic knowledge of parliamentary procedure can make the group decision process more orderly. It is an important skill young people can use throughout life. 4-H meetings are often the first exposure young people will have to parliamentary procedure. This exposure often gives 4-H’ers a change to practice the skills of running and participating in a meeting that other young people may not have. Members practice these skills in clubs starting at 9 years old. They learn how to make motions correctly, how to discuss the motions using the pros and the cons of the issue and then vote to make decisions as a group. They aren’t voting on the country’s budget to avoid the fiscal cliff, but they are learning to approve their club budgets and spending.

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