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The Three Dysfunctions of a Club Meeting

Youth should run the business portion, which should be only 1/4 of the meeting time

The very word meeting makes me sigh and roll my eyes.  I’ve been to so many that are a waste of time and energy and, let’s face it, boring!  Are they ever really productive?  Can’t they (please) be more interesting?

Meeting is just another word for get-together, assembly, encounter, engagement, rally or reunion.  When 4-H Clubs follow the club meeting model, meetings can actually be fun!  The 4-H Club meeting has three distinct parts:  business, recreation and educational program.  Business should take up 25% of the agenda, the educational program 50% and recreation 25% of your meeting time.  The order of your 4-H Club meeting isn’t set in stone; club officers and leaders can be creative in how they set up the agenda for each club meeting.

Dysfunction #1 – Adults Lead the Business Meeting

There’s no way around it; 4-H Clubs have business that needs to be dealt with including roll call, secretary and treasurer reports, committee reports, old and new business and announcements.  It’s tempting for club leaders to take over and do this part of the meeting, but our youth learn nothing from this!  Some of the most useful skills youth develop come from getting ready for the actual meeting and leading their peers in an organized setting, and as an adult, it’s really cool to see youth get things done efficiently.  It’s also important to remember that business doesn’t have to be conducted at every 4-H Club meeting.

Dysfunction #2 – Skimping on the Educational Program

For clubs with younger youth, you can have them lead the pledges.

I’ve seen 4-H Club meetings that were literally 15 minutes long and consisted of only running through a business meeting.  It made me cringe, and I know that 4-H parents were thinking the same thing as me… “Did I really leave my house for this?”  “I could be sitting at my house in my PJ’s.”  “I have three loads of laundry I should be folding.” “Is this all?  It took me more time to drive here!”  The educational program is the most important part of our 4-H Club meetings!  After all, 4-H is in the business of providing high-quality educational experiences for its members, and those experiences can be pretty easy to pull together.  Here are a few examples:

  • 4-H Club members share what they’re doing with their projects.
  • Invite a guest speaker.
  • Take a short field trip.
  • Show a video.
  • Practice for judging contests or do a skill-a-thon.
  • Create a fair project.
  • Work on a community service project.

Dysfunction #3 – Forgetting the Fun

My co-worker, John Lilly, has a tag line on his email signature – Jefferson County 4-H is the place where there’s fun in learning and learning in fun!  I firmly believe that the club that plays together stays together.  Why?  Because kids are going to want to come back, volunteers are going to stay engaged and most importantly, the parents will bring their kids back.  Recreation helps kids make new friends and learn important social skills.  Whether it’s through songs, ice-breakers, games, team-building activities or food, don’t forget to inject fun into 4-H meetings.

As a club member, leader or parent, you can help your 4-H Club avoid these three dysfunctions.  Good 4-H Club meetings help youth make new friends, develop social skills, increase confidence and leadership and make decisions.  To learn more about 4-H Club meetings, visit the and explore our Volunteer Training Series.  The information here is great for club leaders but also for youth leaders and parents.

Inspiring the Next Generation: Mrs. Ruth Ann Scurry

Mrs. Ruth Ann Scurry has been a volunteer for the Jefferson County Hickory Hill 4-H Club for 20 years.

Mrs. Ruth Ann Scurry has been a volunteer for the Jefferson County Hickory Hill 4-H Club for 20 years.

What keeps a volunteer motivated to serve for more than 20 years? If you ask Mrs. Ruth Ann Scurry, a Jefferson County 4-H club leader, she will tell you it’s about making a difference in a young person’s life! Mrs. Scurry raised three sons who were active 4-H members. Her son Kenya even competed at the state level with his demonstration on small engines. Her sons benefited so much from the 4-H program that when her youngest son graduated, she decided to start a 4-H club at her local church called the Hickory Hill 4-H Club. Twenty years later, she still leads this club which focuses on healthy living programs, as well as sewing, gardening, fishing, and consumer choices.

When asked what advice Mrs. Scurry has for club leaders, she shared, “you have to remember to keep the lessons you teach practical and hands on. When teaching nutrition, I show them what a portion size is and remind them to each like a king (breakfast), queen (lunch), and pauper (dinner). If you use examples and language they understand, they will remember. You also have to keep it fun. I make sure to plan a fun treat every now and then to keep the kids motivated and surprised and it works every time.  They never want to miss a meeting!”

When asked what is most challenging about being a volunteer today, Mrs. Scurry says, “Many young people today live with only one parent, grandparent, or other relative. These families need help raising their children. 4-H encourages them to make good choices and helps them feel like they belong to an extended family- a 4-H family. 4-H helps them learn how to follow rules and to respect others. Being a good role model is important too. It’s so true that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’”

Mrs. Scurry has helped build a “4-H village” of caring adult volunteers for her club. She offers simple yet sage advice on how to do this: “Get everyone involved.” She involves everyone from 5-years olds to 83 years old as members and volunteers in her club. She empowers them to make a difference in the lives of 4-H youth by finding out what their strength is, and then asking them to share that strength with the club through an activity, field trip, demonstration, or project.

Mrs. Scurry has not limited her service to just her club. She has also volunteered as a chaperone for 4-H Camp Cherry Lake, the North Florida Fair, and even spearheaded a volunteer appreciation luncheon for local volunteers and community leaders.

Mr. John Lilly, the Jefferson County Extension Director stated, “All of Ms. Scurry’s hard work and dedication affects the entire Jefferson County 4-H Program in a positive way. We are fortunate to have such a loyal and faithful volunteer leader.”

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, 4-H in the Panhandle is sharing stories of inspirational 4-H volunteers every day this week. if you find Mrs. Scurry’s story inspiring, consider becoming a volunteer yourself! Nearly 3,000 volunteers in the Florida panhandle are making a difference in the lives of more than 28,000 youth. In 4-H, you can leverage your experience and skills to help a young person find their own passions and interests. 4-H needs volunteers like you to inspire the next generation.  To learn how to become a 4-H volunteer, contact your local Extension Office or visit

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Making a Difference: Gary Clark

Gary Clark, Sure Shots 4-H Club Leader

Gary Clark, Sure Shots 4-H Club Leader

In Washington County, the name Gary Clark is synonymous with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Gary decided to start a club because he wanted to do something that would benefit the next generation of hunters, conservationists, and shooting sports enthusiasts. When asked what he most enjoys about being a 4-H volunteer, he replied “It is a way to give back to a community that has always supported me.’

Gary takes his role as a mentor and role model very seriously. “There are young people watching and listening to your every word, not so much for guidance and inspiration, but to see if you are walking the talk.  Working with young people today is not so much about passing along knowledge and teaching life skills as it is about making investments in their lives. Showing the same care and concern for every youth you are working with, no matter what skill level or potential, is critical to that young person viewing themselves as successful.” Relationships with caring adult volunteers is one of the Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development that 4-H is built upon.

I believe that we all have not only an opportunity, but an obligation to help to make our communities a better place to live. I think back on the people who gave their time and resources to coach and mentor me when I was young and I am thankful for the generosity. No amount of time spent investing in the lives our youth is ever wasted!

Seeing kids succeed is what keeps Gary motivated to continue his volunteer service. “Our teams have been extremely successful, but most of that success is measured on the personal level.  When you see a student achieve a new personal best or overcome an obstacle that has held them back and you see that little light go off inside their brains, you can’t help but be inspired and so proud of their achievements.” Gary also finds motivation when his 4-H Alumni return to the program as volunteers. “Two former students are also now certified coaches in the program and help out on a regular basis. Seth Pemberton is one of those youth. Seth shares, “Gary has positively impacted my life through 4-H shooting sports by making me strive for excellence, work hard, and give my best.”

Gary shares what inspires him most about being a volunteer is working with youth who would otherwise not have the opportunity to be part of a team. “Unlike so many other sports, shooting is a pretty level playing field- it isn’t only for the most athletic, the smartest, the most popular or the kid that can afford the best equipment. Every member comes into the program with an equal opportunity for success. It is all based on their commitment, focus, and [goals they set for themselves].”

Gary is very modest about his impact his club has on youth, but Julie Dillard, the Washington County Extension Director says, “Gary’s dedication to his community and his 4-H’ers is inspiring and has been the key to the success of Sure Shots 4-H Club.  He encourages, praises, corrects and motivates each individual to be his or her best.”

When asked what he feels youth get out of the 4-H Shooting Sports program, he says “They learn about respect for others, commitment, teamwork, goal setting, cooperation and even how to handle disappointment [sportsmanship]. All of these traits come from being part of a program like 4-H. I do not know of any other organization that offers so many different ways for youth to be involved in their community in a structured, safe and nurturing environment that is built on the values and principles that we all hold so dear. I also believe that these skills will follow them throughout their adult lives as well.” Gary’s experience with 4-H is backed by research. The Tufts Study of Positive Youth Development found that compared to other youth, 4-H members are:

  • Four times more likely to contribute to their communities
  • Two times more likely to be civically active
  • Two times more likely to participate in science, engineering, and technology programs during out of school time; and
  • Two times more likely to make healthier choices.

Would you consider making the investment of a lifetime by becoming a 4-H volunteer? 4-H offers a variety of volunteer roles based on your interests and schedule. To find out more about being a volunteer, contact your local Extension Office or visit

Three Tips for Positive Discipline when Dealing with Difficult Behavior

Chances are, if you have ever volunteered with a youth program, you have run into some children who have challenged you with their behavior.   Earlier this month, Dr. Kate Fogarty and Sarah Hensley shared some insight and tips for disciplining children in a positive and productive way. The word discipline often has a negative connotation, but the origin of the word is “disciple” which means pupil, student, or apprentice. As a volunteer leader, your role is that of a guide- guiding youth towards acceptable behavior. Discipline, or guidance, is a corrective process to teach youth how to solve their problems rather than punishing them for problems they cannot solve.

Here are three tips to remember when working with youth:

  1. 1. Say “Do” as an alternative to “Don’t.” Examples include:
  • “Please use an inside voice during our club meeting. During recreation we will be outside and you can be loud then” instead of “Stop yelling!”
  • “Can you tell me what is going on, taking turns?” instead of “Stop fighting!”
  • “If you run through the woods, you could get hurt or miss seeing something really interesting” instead of “Don’t run through the woods!”

2 . Use encouragement rather than praise. Encouragement is specific and avoids comparison or competition between youth whereas praise is often vague and can foster competition. Research shows that praise can often lower self-esteem or reduce youth’s motivation for participation in an activity. Here are some examples:

Praise Encouragement
I like your photo Tell me about your photo…
I like the way Jennifer is cleaning up I appreciate how Jennifer helped put the art supplies away after the meeting.  It really made my job as a leader easier.
You did a great job on your demonstration How do you feel about your demonstration?
You clearly deserved a blue ribbon How do you think your record book measured up with the judging standard?
You have what it takes to be a great leader I have seen so much growth in your leadership skills, especially your ability to make good decisions and solving problems.


  1. Set limits and consequences– we set limits to prevent injury to self or others and/or prevent property damage. Limits should be firm, but not strict and should be set with confidence and consistency. The key is following through with the consequences and explaining to the youth how their actions affect others. Examples:
    • “If you continue to interrupt our guest speaker, you will have to find a different activity. The other members cannot hear and they want to learn about what horses eat.”
    • “If you can’t remember to aim your arrow at the target, you will have to sit out for the next round of shooting. We do not want anyone to get hurt.”
    • “If you cannot share, you will lose your turn because everyone wants a chance to play this game just as much as you do.”

Ultimately, the support 4-H volunteers provide youth to develop comes from a sense of safety, belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. There is a UF/IFAS Extension publication from our 4-H Volunteer Training Series on positive discipline for youth It provides explanations for youth misbehavior (or mistaken behavior) and non-verbal as well as verbal strategies for handling those common issues that come our way working in the field of youth development.  To learn more about managing difficult behavior in a positive way, you can view the full, 1-hour workshop online at

Making 4-H Meetings Fun (and more manageable)

4-H meetings4-H Meetings should be fun for both the members and the volunteers. Club environments that cultivate belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. Leading a 4-H club should be a fun and rewarding experience. Earlier this month, during our Make a Difference Monday Volunteer Leader Series, Tycee Prevatt shared some simple, but creative ideas to make club meetings fun, but also more manageable!

Divide your club into teams of 3-5 youth. Assign an older 4-Her (intermediate or teen) to serve as the team leader. This will not only make your club more manageable, but it also fosters leadership, teamwork, and cooperation- three essential skills for a happy and productive life.

How this works:

  • Assign each team a color (buy inexpensive plastic tablecloths at the dollar store in each team color).
  • Teams sit together during club meetings/functions. Parents sit behind the teams so as not to interfere.
  • Teams can earn points for: attendance, being prepared for club meetings, being on time, doing a club demonstration, participating in a club service project, and attending 4-H events and activities beyond the club level (such as a day camp or canning workshop).
  • As the leader, you can also use “pop quizzes” or project skill a thons to allow more opportunities to collect points. Parent can help with the skill a thon stations and your 4-H agent can help you set up a skill a thon. Stations can be project specific, such as naming the parts of a saddle, or they can be more general, such as reciting the 4-H pledge from memory or answering 4-H trivia questions.

It is important to set up a points system before introducing this to the club. This idea is really easy to adapt to any club situation.   This example of a club points system is from a livestock club.

You will also need to decide on appropriate incentives. Some clubs give out a grand prize to the top team, others give prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams. Ideas include: partial scholarships to 4-H camp, cash award, pizza or bowling party, or a fun field trip related to their project. Your club may need to do some fundraising to help pay for the prizes.

The team approach works well because it really encourages the members to attend the meetings on time and prepared. It helps motivate them to become more engaged. You will also have fewer interruptions or discipline issues, because teams can lose points for that! This approach works particularly well for medium to large clubs and can even be adapted for use during camp.

What are your best tips for making meetings fun? Let us know in the comment box below. Also, make plans to join us on October 20th for Make a Difference Monday at 7/6 central. Dr. Dale Pracht will be sharing how to create safe environments in our 4-H clubs. If you cannot make our live presentation, it will be archived along with this month’s presentation at