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Clubs: 4-H More Than Just a Meeting

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will identify the four Essential Elements of youth development.
  • Participants will list ways to incorporate the elements into Club meetings.

What makes a Successful Learning Experience?

The 4-H Club Meeting is an important part of the 4-H experience. Club meetings are generally held once a month and can incorporate a variety of activities, such as project workshops and members proposing and planning activities that support youth development. The club meeting has been shown to provide youths with all four Essential Elements of Youth Development (Cassels, Nester & Post, 2015):

  • Belonging,
  • Independence,
  • Mastery, and
  • Generosity.

The Essential Elements are “critical components of a successful learning experience” (National 4-H Council, 2004). Too often we associate the 4-H Club meeting as a time to “take care of business” and only cover items such as, treasures report or up-coming events. This can limit our ability to engage youths, help them grow, and maintain membership. By considering the Essential Elements in every part of the club experience (i.e., meetings, social events, service projects, and leadership opportunities), we can enhance the effectiveness of our activities, creativity, and youth voice.

Creating an environment that embraces the Essential Elements is easily accomplished. Providing youths with a variety of opportunities to make decisions, plan, and lead will encourage members to have a greater appreciation of the importance of the club meeting and a larger sense of Belonging.  When considering the quality of programming, “the more young people participate, the more they perceived that they belong” (Hensley, Israel, Jordan & Place, 2007)

Research has shown that, “4-H club leaders are appropriately seen by members as adult facilitators who encourage, model, and provide opportunities for youth leadership” (Cassels, Nester & Post, 2015). Providing members with leadership and educational opportunities incorporates Mastery and Independence into the club program (National 4-H Council, 2004). Members can learn from an expert, a volunteer, a guest speaker or from one another. Club leaders should provide members with the opportunity to share their talents and interests with peers and adults through presentations, workshops, and mentoring.  

Another important facet of the 4-H club is community service. Community service provides members with experiences related to giving, service, altruism, and Generosity. “When youths have an opportunity to engage in community service, this may promote generosity in their desire to want to maintain this behavior as an adult” (Jones & Meyer, 2015). Opportunities to engage with the community can develop new skills, new interests, and a greater connection to one’s community.

Making it Real

Incorporating the Essential Elements into club meetings can be done in many ways. Below are some ideas on ways to incorporate these elements.


  • Allowing for social time, such as games and conversation before or after meetings.
  • Hosting “out of meeting time” activities for families such as bowling, ice cream social, or movie night at the local theatre.
  • Ensuring that members and leaders provide a safe and inclusive environment by welcoming people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. (New York State 4-H, 2019)


  • Make the most of officer positions.  Provide youths with real opportunities to lead my allowing members to make decisions and independently carry out officer duties.
  • Members of all ages can experience leadership through president, vice president, secretary, treasure, reporter, health officer, game leader, and song leader positions.  
  • Ensure that club members are active in the decision making within the club.
  • Allow youths the time to express themselves, learn, and reflect on programs, events, activities, and meetings.


  • Provide youths the opportunity to learn new things.
  • Incorporate project workshops, project presentations, and hands on learning experiences.
  • Encourage youths to learn at their own pace during activities and/or on their own with their project book at home.


  • Facilitate decision making and participation so that youths have meaning and purpose.
  • Enable youths to develop a connection with others and the community through service.
  • Allow for discussion to learn what youths in the club care about and then develop a list of service project of interest to them. Club members then select the one they are most interested in as a group.
  • Support club officers with implementing the steps required to plan, implement, and complete service projects.

Club Tool Box

Ten Tips: Making the most of your club meeting

  1. Include social time before and after your club meeting.
  2. Plan “out of meeting” activities to encourage developing connections.
  3. Allow youths to be active participants in decision making.
  4. Allow youths the opportunity and time to express themselves.
  5. Encourage all youths to participate.
  6. Provide the opportunity for leadership through effective officer positions.
  7. Invite guest speakers to introduce new topics to members.
  8. Make learning hands-on by incorporating project workshops and youth led presentations.
  9. Actively engage youths with all aspects of a community service project.
  10. Connect youths with the community through service and decision making.

Learn More


  • Cassels, A.; Nester, P.; Post, L. (2015). The 4-H Club Meeting: An Essential Youth Development Strategy. Journal of Extension [On-line], 53(1) Article v53-1a4.
  • Kress, Dr. Cathann, (2016). National 4-H Council. The Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development, National 4-H Council. Retrieved from
  • Meyer, S. & Jones, R. (2015). Promoting the Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development through an Experiential Learning model. Journal of Extension [On-line], 53(5) Article v53-5iw4.
  • New York State 4-H. (2019). Cornell University. Safe Spaces. Retrieved from
  • Hensley, S.; Israel, G.; Jordan, J.; Place, N. (2007). Quality 4-H Youth Development Program: Belonging. Journal of Extension [On-line], 45(5) Article 5FEA8. National 4-H Peer Reviewed Checkmark of Approval.
Author:  Elizabeth Metheny , WVU Extension Agent,  Hardy County
Published: September 2022

Strong 4-H Clubs Series passed National 4-H Peer Review in February 2022