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

11:30 p.m. – 12 a.m. BREAKFAST AT MIDNIGHT

A Breakfast Burrito Buffet Bar is the cheapest and happiest option for this time of night. The protein keeps everyone from feeling crazy-sick with lack of sleep, and it keeps away some of the hangries.

While breakfast is being served, send a crew in to reset anything you need for your next slate of large-group fun. For us, the worship center is our large-group home base for the next two hours.


Sardines and Hide-&-Seek in the dark start after breakfast. For this, we leave up the Nerf Gun Wars obstacles. Other large-group ideas: Lip-Sync Battles, Spoons, Round-Robin Badminton, Giant Group Jenga, and other competition events.

Plan more than two hours of large-group games and activities. Switch to the next while everyone is still having fun. Keep the energy level high and positive.

A little before 2 a.m., bring out the slew of snacks your kids brought to share, and start resetting for the YOU-CHOOSE OPTIONS, if needed.

At some point before 2 a.m., a volunteer sets up the Movie Room, Quiet Room, active options (balls, nets) and tables (for cards & games).


By this point, some kids will be fading, some will be getting sleep-deprived cranky, and most probably will have decided they want to stay up all night. Because the goal is positive relationship (and not ticking everyone off), it’s good to provide some quiet spaces, including a place where people can sleep if desired. But also offer great clean fun options too.

During this time slot, students get to choose from different activities. Until this time, all large-group activities have been mandatory. Because of this, young people love the freedom to wander a little and mellow. They hang with their friends a bit and get to know different adults.

Set up activity stations around one main area so the kids are kind of together but still doing their own thing. Make sure your quiet/sleep area is removed from the noise yet still monitored by adults.

Options include: Movie Room, DIY basketball game, photo booth fun, badminton, ping-pong, cards, Jenga, board games, Wii games, and anything else the kids can come up with.

This five-hour stretch needs to remain intentional. It’s not the time to let kids do their own thing unsupervised. Although kids have more choice of activities, adults are more involved than before.

  • Adults stay involved, building relationships with conversation and play.
  • Keep pulling in the fringe kids who feel less included.
  • Maintain a closer eye on behavior, kindness issues and phone use.
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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