Building a Core Group
Placerville, California, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 5, October-November 2000, p. 96
This is the second part of Wendy McCoy's article about building a core group of members for your La Leche League Group. In this installment, Wendy discusses different types of extra meetings and how they can help to build and maintain a core group.
One purpose of a Leader meeting is to decide what type of extra meeting would be most beneficial to the needs of mothers in your Group.
It is important that all extra meetings are just that, extra. Toddler, Enrichment, and Couples Meetings all fall outside the five basic Leader responsibilities as defined on page 4 of THE LEADER'S HANDBOOK. Keeping that in mind, you and your co-Leaders can discuss your individual time constraints and to what extent each of you is able to contribute to extra meetings.
First, look at the assessment of your Group and the list of the needs you perceive the mothers to have in order to decide which meeting would be best for your Group. You could also ask the mothers at a Planning/Evaluation Meeting what kinds of extra meetings they'd be interested in attending. The following is a brief list of possible extra meetings.
This meeting can be the single most effective tool at creating and maintaining a solid core group of mothers. When held as a combination Evaluation/Enrichment Meeting, you have the opportunity to discuss the open Group jobs, the effectiveness of the jobs currently filled, and how the current workers are feeling about their role in the Group. The needs of the mothers in your group can be addressed in a less formal setting than the Series Meeting. Enrichment topics can be geared toward the Group's toddler population or toward another need of the mothers attending, such as loving guidance or moving toward a more nutritious diet. Because topics at Evaluation/Enrichment meetings can also be presented by mothers with Leader supervision and possible consultation with the District Advisor [See Editor's note below] experienced mothers will gain a sense of ownership. That sense of ownership translates into confident support which will extend to the new mothers attending your meetings. You've now begun the cycle of informed support that is needed by all the mothers. Your core group will be quick to follow.
Toddler Meetings are generally similar to an Enrichment Meeting, with a prepared topic related to toddlers. Books about toddlers, chapters from PLAYFUL LEARNING, and books by Dr. William Sears are favorite topics. These meetings provide support, education, enrichment, and information to experienced mothers, the first-time attendee with a toddler, and many of the returnees whose babies have reached the toddler years. You and your co-Leaders can discuss how often to hold these meetings. Many Groups with Toddler Meetings schedule at least one per series. Groups with a high number of toddlers may consider holding them monthly.
Couples Meetings can be a whole lot of fun, if you decide they will meet the needs of the mothers in your Group. Consider the different needs of the mothers attending your Group.
First-time attendees need information, education, and support for their decision to breastfeed, and the information presented at a Couples Meeting could validate that a mother is doing the best for her baby. The real benefit of Couples Meetings is that not only are the mothers' feelings being validated, but fathers also have an opportunity to discover shared experiences with other fathers.
It is important that topics such as nighttime parenting, lovemaking, and toddler nursing, which invariably come up at Couples Meetings, be handled with sensitivity to the reactions of first time parents.
Again, extra meetings do fall outside of the five basic Leader responsibilities as defined in THE LEADER'S HANDBOOK. Many Groups enjoy the help and participation of a core group of mothers without holding extra meetings. Whether or not you choose to hold extra meetings, taking the time to re-evaluate the makeup of the Group on a regular basis will keep your Group strong and vibrant for years to come.
Watching the transition of a timid first-time attendee into a confident, experienced core mother is one of the pleasures of being a La Leche League Leader that has sustained and fulfilled me over the years. I hope you'll also enjoy this aspect of leading.
[Editor's note: because policies and procedures may differ between LLL Divisions, Affiliates, etc., a Leader should check with her LLL support person before planning extra meetings.]