How to survive a lock-in with teens (and have some fun too!)

Oct 24, 2018 7:00:00 AM / by Sparkhouse


As a youth worker, it’s likely that you have been or will be involved in a lock-in. The night itself can be challenging, yet fun and rewarding.

Youth Ministry Podcast Host (and youth ministry leader) Erik Ullestad offers some time-tested advice for you as you look to host an upcoming lock-in with your teens.

What’s the point of a lock-in?

Lock-ins provide an opportunity for youth to build relationships with peers and adults in atypical ways. Erik reminds us that it’s about memory-making and creating unique experiences (i.e., sleep deprivation).

“Lock-ins establish church as a place that is safe, relevant, and fun for young people and their friends. It also earns the youth worker a comp day or two during the following week.” 

What’s your biggest tip for the lock-in obligated youth worker?

According to Erik, it’s most important to make sure you have reinforcements.

“I’m pretty sure Proverbs says: ’Only a fool leads a lock-in alone’,” he shared. 

Make sure there are plenty of adults available to help. Find them by asking friends, church volunteers, congregation, your family, and other parents.

A time-tested tip from Erik: Consider having them work in shifts – ask the night owls to help out until 2:30 or 3 a.m. and ask the early birds to pop in to relieve them for the rest of the event. 

What’s the “can’t live without” item for a lock-in?

“Other than caffeine and psalms of lament? Air fresheners.” 

Erik made a great point in our conversation with him: It’s been 24 hours since the kids last showered, and they’ve been running around the church for a few hours. 

He points out that they’ve been eating a nearly gluttonous amount of unhealthy food. By 2 a.m., and the combination of the two means that nearly every part of them smells. A little air neutralizing spray will make the wee hours of the morning a little more tolerable.

How do you stay awake during lock-ins?

“Keep moving.”

According to Erik, there’s no guarantee you’ll stay awake standing as the night goes on. You might think that you can put your feet up and watch a movie at 4 a.m. without falling asleep, but you’re kidding yourself. 

Erik also warns that you shouldn’t even close your eyes to pray. Your meditations will turn into sweet dreams in no time.”


When it comes to lock-ins, hang in there. You are not alone. Besides, doesn’t it make us all a little stronger?


Interested in hearing  more about lock-ins? Listen in to our full Youth Ministry Podcast episode about it here. Plus! Leave a review for our podcast for a chance to win a sweet trucker hat to showcase your lock-in survival skills (trust us, you’ll like it).


Topics: Youth Ministry, Youth Ministry Podcast


Written by Sparkhouse


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