University of Illinois Extension
University of Illinois Extension
4-H Ceremonies

About 4-H Ceremonies

Ceremonies have always had a place of special importance in society and organizations. In 4-H they are a celebration of special occasions that club leaders and members feel are important.

This website includes general information about 4-H ceremonies as well as scripts for common 4-H ceremonies (available from the menu at the bottom of this page).

Why Use a Ceremony?

Ceremonies are used to highlight or recognize special accomplishments and goal attainment.

Ceremonies can be used:

  • To convey a message or lesson.
  • To challenge and inspire all the members to reach greater heights in personal growth and the 4-H organization.
  • A ceremony must convey that "you" and "this moment" are special.

To achieve these goals a ceremony must be more than a ritual; it must be a communication of the 4-H ers' thoughts and feelings about their ideas. The ceremony must say something that matters.

Ceremonies can:

  • Meet a greater part of the youth's basic fundamental needs for personal growth.
  • Provide peer interaction and recognition.
  • Encourage positive self-discovery through exploring new social roles.
  • Create a feeling of affiliation with and acceptance by an ever expanding circle of acquaintances.

Group loyalty and personal identity are enhanced by the formal membership, and reinforced by the use of ceremonies.

Recognition is a basic human need that is more meaningful when it is presented in front of "Significant others" — peers, family and friends. When planned and executed properly, a ceremony can allow for all these things.

When Should a Ceremony Be Used?

A ceremony can and should be used anytime a member has completed a goal, made a special accomplishment, achieved a rite of passage, or been recognized for any noteworthy task. In other words, a ceremony should be used whenever a member or leader does something that a leader or teacher feels should be recognized or when he or she is taking on a new challenge. The accomplishments on the part of the group should also be recognized by ceremonies.

There is no defined time or place for a ceremony. Different times and locations for similar ceremonies help to make the recognition more special to all involved.

How Do You Plan a Ceremony?

Certain considerations must be made in planning a meaningful ceremony.

A concept or idea around which the ceremony is built. It is most effective when they can be linked to something current or to an issue that the member can relate. Let the members of your club brainstorm together to come up with a theme. Use their ideas and help them by giving guidance and encouraging comments.

The message will be different depending on the purpose of the particular ceremony. It is important to develop a message and then build on the message throughout the ceremony. When creating the message keep the following question in mind. What would you like the members to learn or do as a result of participating in the ceremony? For instance, you may want to inspire them to do more good work to reach their goals. Take care not to loose the special message of the ceremony. By stressing the message during the entire program, participants and observers will be aware of the purpose and reason for the ceremony.

A center of focus is a must in creating a meaningful ceremony. The center of activity should contain a symbolic feature or simple object to catch and hold the members' attention. Actions performed during the ceremony should be simple and occur around the focal point. i.e. a 4-H emblem, a book, or a flag.

The essence of the ceremony is the program. The two major parts of the program are the characters and the narration. These two elements provide the message, purpose, and recognition for the ceremony.

Characters of the Ceremony
Those who have speaking parts, should be carefully selected. They should rehearse their parts so they can deliver them in normal tones with appropriate expression. Frequent pauses and slow reading can be very effective. If the ceremony includes individual statements, it is important to help the person recite his part so that it sounds natural. Memorized monotone or halting reading can make a ceremony meaningless.

If a script is used it should be timed coincide with the action at the center of activities. If there are parts to be acted out, rehearsal is a must. This will ensure that all props are in working order.

The narration contains the heart of the message and must be composed to take full advantage of the setting and symbolism depicted by the center of focus. Background music during a narration can be very effective and add to the ceremony.

The nature of the occasion will help to determine the place and atmosphere that is best suited for the particular ceremony. Take advantage of the area where the ceremony is held. Be creative!

Dramatic Effects
Use of dramatic effects can be a real asset to any ceremony. Swelling the music, lowering the lights, lighting candles, starting the campfire, getting the flag to ripple in the breeze of a fan, uncovering an object on a table, building a model, and many other simple, easy gestures catch the attention of the group.

Every ceremony should have a high point where the greatest impact will be felt by the audience. This should be near the end.

Set the mood by making the transition from fun activities to the ceremony itself. In creating the proper mood for the program, it is a necessity for the group to be in a proper mind set. To make the transition, shift the attention of the group to a different setting. Use mood changers. Use your imagination and you will find unique ways to set the proper mood.

The ending is just as important as the beginning. Design it to compliment the whole program and help reinforce the message of the ceremony in the minds and hearts of the participants. When the ending begins, it should be obvious that the special moment is complete. Use an effect to end the ceremony.

Who Should Plan a Ceremony?

The leader of the group should not have sole responsibility for planning ceremonies. The planning should involve members of the group and assistants to the leader who recruit the needed help. If you know someone who would be good at this type of planning, encourage him or her to develp an idea. There may be a parent in your group with many creative ideas as well. Form a committee within the club to concentrate on and plan ceremonies. One often gains more in planning the ceremony than in participating in the actual ceremony. Adults should be there to help the members of the group, but they should encourage the members to do the planning themselves.

Where Do I Start?

When you are ready to write the script will be easy if you organize it in this manner:

  • Introduction - Remember that its purpose is to get and hold attention.
  • Body - Develop your main theme or idea here, and build it toward a….
  • Climax or Summary - Connect all the ideas together so that the ceremony will be remembered and significant to all. This can be done by impressive statements, the lighting of candles, the singing of an inspiring song, or even a moment of silence when each formulates their own thoughts based on something just said or done

What Advance Preparations Must Be Made?

Rehearse the ceremony so that those taking part will be relaxed and comfortable as it is presented. Choose individuals with major parts carefully. They should have good, clear voices and should be able to put expression and meaning into parts.

Assemble or move props well in advance. Involve members who are not on the ceremony committee in the preparation of props. If the audience is to be involved in any way, make sure they have the needed materials.

Things to Remember

  • Determine the purpose and choose a theme.
  • Assemble resource materials.
  • Write a script or find an appropriate ceremony already written.
  • Decide who will be included.
  • Delegate responsibility.
  • Consider setting or atmosphere needed.
  • Assemble props and equipment.
  • Rehearse as needed.
  • Keep it simple, impressive and interesting.

Select a Ceremony