I do my best fire-starting with one of those packaged fire-logs that you buy at the store. They have instructions and all you have to do is put it in the fireplace, but it right side up, and touch the lit match to the red arrows and let it burn. Even though I was a Cub Scout I never really got the hang of doing a decent campfire. I could get a fire started but it either faded out too soon or I would accidentally put to heavy a log on it and crushed the flame.

Crafting a sustained fire is a challenge. You have to get the right mix of wood at the right time in order to not only start it but keep it going. You must have dry wood that is ready to burn or otherwise you will have a weak fire and more smoke than flame. You want to have heat, especially for cooking, and light, especially at night. I love food cooked over a fire – things like hot dogs and marshmallows, as well as potatoes or corn wrapped in foil and set in the coals. I just usually let others handle the fire building.

I have realized over the years that building and maintaining Toastmaster clubs is similar to fire building. Each club needs an initial spark – someone who wants to start a club in their community or at their company. Then they need people to come alongside and help create the fire – gather the wood and kindling as it were. These in TM are club sponsors. They help gather the prospective members and get them excited. They help fill out the paperwork to official charter the club. They help to set up a demonstration meeting that will show interested parties the way a typical meeting goes.

Then there are the club mentors. Those are the fire sustainers. They supply the wood to keep the fire going. In the TM world they are the ones who come alongside the members and explain the meeting roles – what the timer does, what the grammarian does, etc. They also explain what the officer roles are and why they are important – like why do you have three vice presidents and what are their unique roles. While the club sponsors job usually ends with the club chartering, the club mentor serves for a period of six months – or longer. They serve to see that the club is set up to succeed.

There is a third task in fire-building that relates to Toastmasters and that is of the club coach, or fire restarter. Not all clubs succeed or go strong without down moments, just like not every fire is a roaring success. When the flames die down to embers it takes a skillful hand to blow and feed carefully to build back to a steady fire. In the same way when a club is down to just a few members it often takes someone outside the club to fan the flames and reenergize the members to grow strong.

Today I am giving a speech to a club that has at least one mentor candidate and according to him could yield more. In my role as district club sponsor and mentor chair I will be endeavoring to fill the roles of club sponsor and mentor for the new clubs that we have. Hopefully my speech will serve to fan the flames and bring out new fire-builders.