Home Youth Leaders 5 Steps to a Youth Lock-in That’s Perfect for a Small Group

5 Steps to a Youth Lock-in That’s Perfect for a Small Group

5. Schedule with strategy.

There are four keys to a successful lock-in schedule:

  • Keep kids busy. Don’t give them time to get bored.
  • Play get-to-know-you group games early.
  • No “options” are available until 2 a.m. (Until then, everyone stays together and plays together!)
  • Pickup by 7 a.m.

Here’s a sample schedule that works well for a youth lock-in from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

7 – 7:30 p.m. CHECK-IN & UNO JOIN-UP 

After checking in and signing the Code of Conduct, kids immediately enter an ongoing UNO game. Move it fast with multiple decks. As new people come in, hand them a set of cards. Everyone scoots back to make room. And play continues with no break in the motion!

This UNO Joinup includes everyone immediately, with no time for awkward waiting while everyone arrives.


Mixers aren’t just games! They include get-to-know-you info and mixing outside current friendship groups. Youth Bingo is a great standard. The Toilet Paper Introduction is also a great option but takes longer.

After playing a few mixers, have some fun introductions (youth and leaders). Also during this time, an energetic, positive, happy person should go over the rules for the night.


For this event, you want to darken the building, set up obstacles to hide behind, rent a swarm light (or borrow some fun lighting), and have kids make an energetic, clean music playlist. Prepare for several Nerf games here: Capture the Flag, Girls vs. Guys, Humans & Zombie, Kidnap the Bear, etc.

Switch to a new game before kids get bored or frustrated. If your pastor or other church leaders are “fun,” invite a few to join. (Kids will be surprised and delighted to see people outside their element being a little wild.)

Tips for Nerf Gun War success:

  • Lighting is vital! Consider a swarm light. Colored uplighting is fun. You want dark but safe. (Don’t use strobes, unless you want headaches and irritable people.)
  • Music sets the tone. My kids created a Techno Play list specifically for the war.
  • Provide a phone caddy. We hang a cloth over-the-door shoe organizer in the kitchen for kids to store cell phones during the game. Cell phones will fall and get stepped on while kids run.
  • Game Leader must be positive, energetic and fast at instructions.
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Laurie Acker is a ministry leader and pastor’s wife in sunny Arizona. She learned pretty quickly that small church ministry can leave you exhausted and deflated, especially when you’re using resources that were never designed for small churches! After 30+ years in ministry, including children, youth, women, and worship, Laurie’s having fun helping others in small churches go from frustrated to effective with tools and strategies that work in small churches. Since 2019, she’s encouraged thousands of women in her free Facebook community for small churches, founded The Creative Little Church website full of resources for small churches, and runs Small Church Summits, where she hosts online conferences just for small church ministry. Connect with Laurie at The Creative Little Church