Lock-In Survival Guide

This post is intended as satire. Don’t take the things I say here literally, even if there is some truth to it ;-]


Since you're not going to say it, I will.

Lock-Ins are lame. 

Lock-Ins are the bane of a youth minister’s existence. 

Whoever invented them should be lined up and shot. 

But I digress. 

The first Lock-In dates all the way back 1596. John Wycliffe, a Bible scholar at the time, got accidentally locked in a cellar for 12 hours with 36 children, signifying centuries of tradition of staying up all night with kids and having no help doing it. 

But that’s neither here nor there. 

I have a lock-in coming up in about 28 days - and it’s a New Year’s Lock-In to be exact, the worst kind of lock-in. Why? I don’t know. It just is


But what youth ministers fail to realize is that lock-in preparation begins 30 days before. 

At a month before the actual event, I start prepping myself mentally. I start preparing myself for voluntarily staying up 24 hours straight with screaming kids who won’t clean when it’s time to leave. I mentally prepare myself for the parents asking me when they pick up their kids 15 minutes late (which might as well be 15 hours late when you haven’t slept all night): “So did you all have fun?” And you wish you could respond: “I don’t know, does getting the mess beat out of you sound like fun!?”

But I digress.

Lock-Ins are WONDERFUL for the kids. Kids you haven’t seen in six years will come to a lock-in and act like they’ve been there all along. You can go outside and shout “LOCK-IN!!” and you will literally have kids coming from every nook and cranny, crawling out of holes in the ground and jumping out of cars. It’s absolutely ridiculous. 

But I digress. 

For me, a lock-in isn’t just a night with no sleep. It’s a week-long event. 

The three days before and three days after are just as important as the actual lock-in itself. I begin sleeping late and staying up late about three days before the actual lock-in. This never works though, as I have a family and a normal life and work that still has to be done, lock-in or not. So it all usually happens the night before, I try to sleep late but never do, ensuring I will be incredibly tired come 2AM. If, however, you have a toddler and a pregnant wife, you can play your cards right and take a nap during the day. That is, providing you have understanding Elders who will let you “lay outta work” just for some silly lock-in. 

The three days after is what I call LIR, or Lock-In Recovery. This can vary with your age. I’m 32, so I feel as though I’m 120 years old when a lock-in is finished. My wife has an IV waiting to stick me once all the kids are gone. I’ve never had to go to the hospital after a lock-in, but I am anticipating that day is not too far off. 

What follows in the next few days (again, depending on your age and experience), are nightmares, cold sweats, some sleeplessness, and an off-kilter diet because of all the honey buns and energy drinks you ingested while at the lock-in. Some youth ministers even suffer longer from PTLID - or Post-Traumatic Lock-In Disorder. 

While I won’t get into the structure of a lock-in and the activities thereof, I will tell you that it is absolutely essential that you do as little as possible while managing the lock-in. That means no basketball, running around, shouting at video games, or anything else. Just sit there. Quietly. 

The best lock-ins are the ones where you can sucker other youth ministers into bringing their groups of kids. You can lull them into a false sense of security, and then go back home and sleep. Show up an hour before the lock-in is over and say you were playing video games all night with some boys upstairs. This only works if you have a really big building though. 

So, I hope this short survival guide has opened your eyes a little and made you realize that lock-ins aren’t worth it. But we’re youth ministers, and we like punishment. 

Best of luck to you in all your lock-ins, whether at New Years or in 2014. Cause you need all the luck you can get.