How to Plan a Youth Group Lock-In

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Lock-ins give teens a chance to make new friendships and learn about their faith.
Lock-ins give teens a chance to make new friendships and learn about their faith. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Lock-ins – overnight social events where no one goes in and no one goes out – have long been a popular tradition with youth groups for a reason. Kids long for a chance to create solid bonds with their peers, but with busy school schedules and the social pressures of high school, this isn't always easy. Lock-ins give kids a chance to spend time with one another in a fun environment.

Things You'll Need

  • Large event space with bathroom facilities
  • Flyers
  • Budget for two meals and snacks

Secure a place for the lock-in – churches or school gyms are ideal for the space and bathroom facilities they offer. Get permission and schedule the lock-in with whoever is in charge of the space.

Give your youth group lock-in a theme. Themes can amp up a festive spirit and attract more people to your event. Plan games and choose music that fits your theme. Make a list of decorations needed to enhance the lock-in's theme. These might involve colorful napkins and cups, streamers, balloons or lights. Figure out a focus or objective for the lock-in: Is it to attract new members? Is it to celebrate a time of year or achievement of the youth group? Do you want to give youth group members a chance to bond and socialize?

Create a flyer with the date and time. List a deadline for signing up. Have attendees' parents fill out and sign a form with emergency contact numbers and any health or diet concerns. Provide parents with a list of names and phone numbers of the adults who will be supervising the event. Start small and limit the amount of attendees. If you have the resources – a large place for the lock-in, enough food and adult supervisors – for a larger group, break the party into two age groups: a younger group of ages 10 to 13 and another for ages 14 to 18.

Create a list of rules and checklist of things to pack for the lock-in. Distribute the checklist and rules to all adult supervisors and attendees at least a week before the lock-in.

Plan the food and beverages. Provide this from your own budget or request an event fee from the attendees. Lock-ins typically start in the early evening and carry on until mid-morning the next day. Have a dinner available. Ordering pizza is easiest — estimate three slices per teen and adult supervisor. Set up the delivery a few days beforehand. Provide healthy late night snacks – such as granola bars, fruit and trail mix. Provide a simple continental breakfast for the next morning – pastries or bagels with spreads, fresh fruit and orange juice.

Plan the activities. Have several ice breakers ready to start everyone off. Create an agenda of the lock-in's events and distribute it to all of the attendees. Offer a range of activities such as volleyball or basketball – if there's an indoor gym – music and dancing, movie screenings and games. Keep discussions or sermons brief – the primary focus of a lock-in should be fun and fellowship.

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