I have not planned or organized a youth lock-in for nearly a decade. Lock-ins weren’t part of the history where I served from 2008 thru 2015, and even though I threw one during my first year there the idea never really stuck. We did some overnights with the 30 Hour Famine, but those weren’t true lock-ins–fun wasn’t purely the point.
Nope. No lock-in for me since 2008.
It would be criminal to not host a youth lock-in where I serve currently. The location and facility practically beg for it. So last Friday was the Junior High Lock-In.
Here’s my list of three winners and two losers from the event.
Winner: volunteer recruitment.
My church supports a robust community of adults who volunteer with youth, and the need to invite the uninitiated into that community is constant. Since they don’t require a weekly commitment, lock-ins are a golden opportunity for prospective volunteers to get a feel for what youth ministry is like. I had four adult volunteers, and only one of them was a regular. Two were parents of youth and one was not. Two were participating in their first ever youth group activity.
For me, this is one of the most explicit purposes of a lock in. Get the kids in the building, close the doors, and play until they drop. Grog. Scatterball. Sardines. Ships And Sailors. Seriously, lock-ins are a great excuse to grow your compilation of games by trying out new ones along with ones you already know. There were some scraped elbows, so I was glad we had our first aid kit handy, because kids were eager to get bandaged up and back in the game.
It’s not perfect for this, but the lock-in is uniquely suited to initiate and enhance meaningful relationships among youth. Being together in a space dedicated to fun is good for friendships. Kids let their guard down a bit. By midnight, what you see is what you get. In a good way.
I wanted to prove (to myself, mostly) that I could still hack a lock-in, so I planned the whole thing myself. The schedule, the volunteer recruitment, the food, the games, the consent forms, the flyers–everything. As the night went on, I kept seeing pieces of the program that might have been more creative, portions of the planning that could have been smoothed out by their being planned by someone other than me, maybe even some youth. Who knows? We might have even had a theme. Yeah, the next lock-in needs more collaborative planning.
Pizza, soda, chips, candy, and cookies are a recipe for awfulness that comes out perfect every time. This one is related to planning, since junk food is the easiest thing to procure if the menu is only one of thirteen things you’re working on. Nobody–least of all the 11 year-old–feels very good after imbibing the lock-in diet.
Also, even though we had a lights out time and sleeping was part of the agenda, sleep deprivation is inescapable. This comes on a Friday, at the end of a week of school, so kids are pretty sapped already. One youth burst into tears the moment her parents picked her up in the morning. She wasn’t upset. She was simply exhausted. I’m not sure what a more healthy lock-in looks like in this regard, but health is one aspect that seems to be begging for some experimentation.
I don’t love lock-ins, but I appreciate their value as a vehicle for some really beneficial things, both for youth and adults.