Long Live The Lock-In

It’s lock-in night at the church, and not just one lock-in either. Oh no, we’re running three of them simultaneously (only two are youth lock-ins; the third is the 4th and 5th grade one, run by my colleagues, but the one that Kiddo will be participating in). Because why not?

My thinking when I designed the calendar was that two fall weekends committed to overnights at the church was too many, from a staff standpoint, because you already have two weekend retreats calendared for September thru November. That’s four overnights in three months. Three is better.

The pizza is ordered. The board games are out. The knobby balls are inflated. The sanctuary is cleared thru midnight. The movies are downloaded to the iPad (A Wrinkle in Time and Doctor Strange). Consent forms are signed.

What am I forgetting?

Lock-ins are the counterargument to the steady push on church leaders to get outside their buildings. I cut my teeth on that push. My first congregation and I did walks around the neighborhood on Saturdays. I’ve done “Ashes To Go.” I’m sold on the reality that hunkering down within the walls, waiting for people to come (back), and designating 3/4 of each year’s budget to building maintenance is not a winning mission strategy.

A Lock-in is a love song to the church building, though. I’m lucky to serve a church that has a fabulous modern building that feels, in the dead of night, more like a conference center than a church. Before I came here I’d sworn off lock-ins, but I decided pretty quickly that it would be youth ministry negligence to not have one in this building.

Some of the most amazing churches for lock-ins are the oldest ones, the ones where the smell of the sanctuary carpet and the sound of creaking pews evoke something mysterious and ancient. Regardless of the age and state of the facility, though, a lock-in is a beautiful (really!) instance of the church welcoming young people within its walls to experience sanctuary, even if the presenting activity is a game of sardines.

Long live the lock-in.


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