Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Why a Youth Lock In Schedule Makes a World of Difference

Why a Youth Lock In Schedule Makes a World of Difference


Youth ministry is synonymous with the youth lock in. Teenagers enjoy being together and staying up all night and telling everyone about it the next day. But without a solid youth lock in schedule, you might be in for a rude awakening.

After experiencing my 12th all-night lock in, I seriously doubted my ability to do this much longer. The blood vessels in the whites of my eyes were telling. Maybe lock ins should be limited to youth leaders of a certain age. Or maybe I’m just not cut out for them any more. Maybe none of us are cut out for them. Are lock ins even healthy?

Every time I participate, I feel like I’m shaving years off my life. Every year, my eyes get redder. I’m delirious and speak nonsense. And the leaders who’ve been with me the longest know I should never, under any circumstances, operate a vehicle when I’m tired. They could tell you stories, but they wouldn’t, because they love me and know I’ve seen them tired too. Experiencing a lock in together is a sacred thing! One friend who’s been at my side for five lock ins knows this: What happens at Denny’s stays at Denny’s.

Why I Decided to Stick to a Youth Lock in Schedule

One year, I wasn’t really looking forward to this special annual tradition. In fact, I was praying and thinking, “How can I avoid feeling like a truck hit me afterward?” That’s when I decided to focus on students and remember how much they love lock ins. Like a student in trouble, I repeated the mantra:

Kids love this. They’ll remember this.
Kids love this. They’ll remember this.
I love them. I’ll get to know them.
I love them. I’ll get to know them.
God loves them more. There will be moments for them to know this.
God loves them more. There will be moments for them to know this.

Then I came up with a plan. I decided to take a nap before the lock in (on my husband’s recommendation). Now, I know you’re thinking, “Well, Captain Obvious, what a concept.” But it took me more than a decade to figure this out and to make a few other tweaks to the youth lock in schedule.

The results? Afterward, I didn’t find one red blood vessel in my eyes. I welcomed the morning with my husband and kids without talking gibberish or being too grumpy. In fact, I slept soundly until noon and woke up feeling refreshed. Plus, I celebrated the fact that we had a great lock in without the need for first aid, a “sit-down talk” or an intervention.

Try These Tips for a Youth Lock in Schedule:

My suggestions aren’t medically proven or research-based. And I’m the only test subject so far. These tips worked for me and made my lock in lovely this round. If you have your own tips for a youth lock in schedule, I’d love to know them for next time. Because we all know…there’s always a next time.

Before the lock in:

Set your registration and forms deadline a week before you actually need everything. You’ll always have a few last-minute things to take care of. But setting the deadline early ensures there aren’t dozens of last-minute chores.

And because we worked as a team, we were able to do some of the things listed below. If you don’t have a team, recruit someone today! Start investing in them every chance you get.

  • Take a mid-morning nap the day of the event.
  • Hydrate all day long.
  • Eat light; you know you’ll be eating later on.
  • Going into the evening, drink a smoothie with protein and other nutrients.
  • Eat only the toppings of the pizza. Go easy on carbs.
  • Find leaders who love teenagers and having fun.
  • Have a semi-healthy snack every two hours or so. (We all know that “totally healthy” doesn’t exist.)
  • Hire drivers if you’re traveling. Don’t even try to be super human or take risks.
  • Come up with creative (and time-consuming) activities to pass the time. I used two pairs of glasses to get our students to Instagram each other/get to know each other.
  • If you have your own kids, get a sitter, clear the schedule the next morning, and sleep for a few hours.
Yes! Success.
What youth lock in schedule tricks have you learned, and how have they helped? Please share your tips in the comments below. Together we can make these events better than ever—for everyone.