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4-H Youth Development Council Structure

The purpose of the 4-H Youth Development Council is to help plan and implement a 4-H Youth Development Program that is consistent with the mission and vision of both Purdue Extension and the Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program. The county 4-H program should offer a variety of high-quality 4-H youth educational opportunities, be adequately supported, and be in accordance with the developmental needs of today’s young people.

Goals and Objectives

The county 4-H Youth Development Council goals should be similar to and supportive of the statewide 4-H youth program goals previously listed. In addition, it would be advisable for each 4-H Youth Development Council to establish three to five long-term goals to serve as a guide for future decisions. Realistic goal setting is not easy to accomplish, but if a group fails to plan, it plans to fail. Long-term goals and short-term objectives are needed to guide a program effectively in the current changing environment. Short-term objectives should help focus work to achieve long-term goals. Council tasks and activities should be based on objectives and address specific goals. Some objectives a 4-H Youth Development Council may wish to consider:
  • Conduct an annual program-planning process to assure the relevancy of the program.
  • Maintain and support a year-round 4-H Youth Development Program.
  • Maintain and support qualified 4-H Youth Development professionals.
  • Assure representation of the County’s demographic categories on the 4-H Youth Development Council.
  • Assure representation of the County’s demographic categories as 4-H participants and volunteers.
  • Assure reasonable and friendly access for all grade-eligible youth to participate in 4-H Youth Development Programs.
  • Assure year-round program promotion in local media.


Membership on the 4-H Youth Development Council should provide an opportunity for a broad-based support group of youth and adults who are willing to work for the benefit of the total 4-H Youth Development Program. These people are expected to use their personal expertise, interest, and energy in the process of guiding the 4-H Youth Development Program. When the 4-H Youth Development Council meets the membership guidelines and is representative of the total community, then the members' cooperative efforts and ideas will be successful. 

It is recommended that 4-H Youth Development Councils consist of 12-30 members. A group this size can effectively achieve progress. The following criteria are good guidelines to use when selecting 4-H Youth Development Council members. Each council member should:
  • Show enthusiasm.
  • Be willing to grow.
  • Demonstrate effective, reasonable problem-solving ability.
  • Have an understanding of youth development.
  • Demonstrate leadership ability.
  • Be grounded in the present.
  • Have a focus on the future.
  • Be interested in helping 4-H Youth Development serve the entire community. 
​It is important that the composite group of 4-H Youth Development Council members:
  • Represents all geographic areas of the county.
  • Includes people of different ages (youth, young adults, and older adults).
  • Represents all ethnic groups included in the county.
  • Includes a mix of community leaders including educators, business representatives, public servants, clergy, professionals, and homemakers.
  • Brings an understanding of various family structures, economic levels, and related concerns.
  • Understands the planning function.
The selection and renewal process of council membership is critical. The by-laws of the 4-H Youth Development Council should establish a selection process that clearly describes a method for membership renewal and change. Three years is an ideal term for membership, with about one-third of the members rotating onto the council each year. A combination of appointment and election methods likely will be needed to create and maintain a viable
and effective 4-H Youth Development Council.
Each individual will have successfully completed the Purdue University 4-H Volunteer Application and Screening process with the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator prior to having his or her name considered as a representative on the 4-H Youth Development Council. Each 4-H Youth Development Council member will successfully re-enroll annually as a 4-H Volunteer in order to maintain his or her position on the 4-H Youth Development Council. A sample 4-H Council Member Role Description​ provides additional information about responsibilities and qualifications of 4-H Council Members.


The 4-H Youth Development Council's success rests on being both effective and efficient. The mission of Extension and 4-H and the needs of local residents must be reviewed on a regular basis, to ensure that 4-H programs are helping youth participants to gain the knowledge and skills they will need for their future.
Items to be considered so that the council may successfully fulfill its responsibilities include:
  • Needs of local citizens, youth, and volunteers.
  • Goals and objectives to be achieved.
  • Tasks to achieve those goals and objectives.
  • Action plan.
  • Extension mission.
  • 4-H mission.
  • Philosophy of the Extension system.​
Purdue Extension is supported with federal, state, and county tax dollars, which lead to obligations related to the use of these monies. Further, since many people are involved in and affected by Extension programs, efficient operations are required to involve and serve a large number of people. Some of the ways in which a 4-H Youth Development Council can be efficient include:
  • Conducting organized meetings in a democratic way; (i.e. using basic format and guidelines of parliamentary procedure).​
  • Taking action that is consistent with state and federal laws.
  • Using an agenda that is written and communicated to members.
  • Valuing different opinions.
  • Making group decisions.​
  • Sharing the workload through the use of committees (Note: Committees can include non-council members as long as they are approved volunteers).​
  • Operating within a consistent, yet flexible, structure (i.e., constitution).
  • Following appropriate and accepted financial procedures.​
  • Communicating actions and decisions clearly and within a reasonable time frame (i.e., posting meeting minutes to accessible website).​
  • Communicating and interacting with the 4-H Youth Development​