Q: What is a group agreement?
A: A group agreement (sometimes also called a youth group contract) is a document that outlines what the expectations of the group are for the time they are meeting together.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Wait, isn’t a group agreement just ‘the rules’? I already have those, so check you later Youth Workin’ It.”
Some might consider a group agreement, ‘the rules.’ The key difference between a group agreement and ‘rules’ comes in the creation and enforcement.
Rules are often top down. They’re usually created and enforced by the person in charge. A group agreement though is created by the entire group. They decide what goes on and discuss why it’s important for the group.
Creating a Group Agreement
Creating a youth group agreement takes time and discussion. It needs ownership and participation from all the youth to work well. You’re a part of the group as well and can therefore make sure that any zero-tolerance items end up on the list. But again, do so conversationally. For example, with a no alcohol ‘rule’, explore why it’s important to the youth that everyone comes sober.
When creating a group agreement try to keep items positive. Instead of a list of ‘NOs’, try to create a list of positive activities that everyone agrees to. From our previous example, instead of ‘No alcohol’, try ‘Come to group sober’. Instead of ‘No put-downs’, try ‘Speak kindly’. The youth will probably give you a list of ‘NOs’ – take the time to help them create a list of ‘YESs’.
Once a group agreement is created have everyone sign it. Yourself included. When new group members join have them review and sign the agreement too.
Enforcing a Group Agreement
Enforcing a youth group agreement is just as important as creating one. Don’t always be the one to enforce the expectations set by the group. It’s the group’s agreement, not your rules. Everyone is encouraged to give positive peer pressure to adhere to the group agreement they created together. If you have a youth team leader on a project within your program, encourage them to also take the lead in helping remind the group about the group agreement.
Refer to it often, even when no one is breaking it. Praise the group when they are following the agreement. It’s often easy to only notice when a youth is breaking a part of the group agreement, but take the time to praise individuals and the group when they’re working well and following the group agreement.
Question: Do you think a group agreement is different from ‘rules’? Why or why not? Share your answers in the comments below.
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