My good friend & former boss, who's now down in Texas, asked "What do we need to know" - as a question for youth leaders. Here's my answers. In no particular order, except #11 is probably most important, which is why it's last. Some practical advice, some personal advice, some specific for YM, some not. But, if you're interested, here's my current top 11 for what every youth leaders needs to know:
1) Parents are your best friends or your worst enemies - it's your choice.
2) You won't like every kid and every kid won't like you - so find volunteers who bring different gifts/talents/passions so you can widen your net.
3) Perceived needs get them in the door, real needs get them out the door - and eventually, they're going out the door, so you better equip them to live in the real world & have their real needs met by Jesus - Pizza parties & broomball aren't all there is.
4) Learn to say "I'm sorry" "I was wrong" "Please help me" - to your boss, to your volunteers & to the kids - sometimes all at once. They'll actually respect you more.
5) Be careful, be safe - dead is dead and no matter how awesome the trip was or how funny the gag, explaining how it ended up in tragedy to a parent just isn't worth it.
6) FIND a circle of friends outside Youth Ministry - friends that remind you you're not as funny as you think, friends that remind you it's ok to take a day off, friends who are mature enough to care about you, for you and not because they have a crush on you or want to grow up to be you.
7) Find a place you fit and stick it out - nothing says Jesus loves you like someone who's around long enough to say it more than once. Longevity is worth its weight in gold.
8) It's not about you. We're all screwed up, but God uses us anyway. Come to grips with this and remember it both when you're successful and when you're afraid you're about to get canned.
9) What you feed grows & what you starve dies. You can't be effective without having your own relationship with Christ. You don't have to be a superstar (see #8) but if you're not growing, you can't model growth. You can't model an active faith if you don't have one and eventually the message will get old.
10) Get married & have kids. Nothing says "I'm a healthy individual" like a spouse and kids - to youth & parents, especially if you're a guy. Give them the evidence that at least one person on the face of the earth will vouch for you. And it helps you create healthy boundaries.
11) Fall in love with God, again.
I realize, after reading this list again, that you could take out a few words here and there and it would be perfectly applicable to anyone in ministry...