I Did My First Lock-In (And Survived)

I promised myself that I would never do a Lock-In. I told all of my leaders, students, and friends that I would never give in. Well, I gave in. I scheduled, plan, and hosted my first Lock-In.

Why did I decide to host a Lock-In?

My students wanted to have a Lock-In, and they asked me for two years about doing one. I had several students who would frequently ask if I would ever consider hosting one. I decided to do it once just to make my students happy. What’s the worst that could happen? If I didn’t think it was successful, I would simply never schedule one again.

I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t nervous; I was terrified.

Dramatic? Probably.

You have to understand that Lock-In’s are notorious for being chaotic and destructive. I have heard countless student pastors tell horror stories about the Lock-Ins they hosted. Their stories echoed in my mind as the Lock-In approached.

Let’s fast forward to the day of the event. I woke up ready for war. I am not joking! I was mentally and spiritually prepared to go to war. I had countless games in mind, the meals planned, and a twelve pack of Red Bull; it’s go time!

I made the mistake of getting to the church too early. I had one of my leaders with me to get everything prepared for the evening. The event was set to start at 7:00 p.m. so we got to the church at 4:30 p.m.

Have you ever thought something was going to take longer than it actually did? Let’s just say that happened. We had everything set up by 5:00 p.m. with nothing left to do. So guess what we did? We did the only thing that made any sense - we started eating the snacks. Those two hours went by quickly as we destroyed a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

The first student arrived to the church at 6:40 p.m.

This was the first Lock-In that I planned, and I did not do a great job on the promotion of the event. I was expecting only ten students to come to the event; ten students showed up by 6:50 p.m.  

I was shocked. I had no idea that our students were actually excited for the event. We ended up having 25 students in attendance. I was super pleased!

We started the night with dinner. We provided pizza and soda because what else do you have for dinner at a Lock-In?

We didn’t have our first activity until 8:30 p.m. because I wanted to give students time to hangout, talk, play games in the arcade, and eat.

I was blessed to have leaders who helped lead each group activity. This allowed me to hang out with students and spark up meaningful conversations.

Moments before we were going to start out first group activity, I had a student split open his elbow playing ping pong.

Ping-pong? Yes, ping-pong!

He split that thing right open! We quickly got some pressure on it and headed straight to Urgent Care. I stayed with him until his parents arrived.

Once I got back to the church, I was swarmed by a pack of curious students. I must admit that their reactions were priceless.

At this point, the Lock-In started with a bang!

The rest of the night was filled with fun activities, snacks, and great conversations. The night was going much better than expected. I was able to have great conversations with both leaders and students.

We ended up allowing students to go to sleep after 2:00 a.m. Why? Because I was not wanting to fight with 25 grumpy teenagers at 5:00 a.m. We did not make them go to sleep, but we did provide a sleep space and an awake space. I made the decision to do the two spaces simply because I was unsure how to govern students sleep. I have heard that some lock-ins required students to stay up all night while others they were required to go to sleep. I ended up doing the middle ground by providing opportunities for students to choose if they went to sleep or not.

I had adult leaders who stayed awake all night watching both spaces to ensure nothing inappropriate would take place. We divided the sleep space into two spaces, a guy side and a girl side. This helped us ensure behavior stayed appropriate throughout the night.

I was surprised that we had no students get in trouble. We had no inappropriate behavior at all! All but three students ended up falling asleep.

I ended up starting breakfast at 6:45 a.m. and we woke the students up at 7:30 a.m. so they could eat before their parents picked them up at 8:00 a.m.

Personal Take-Away

The Lock-In taught me to guard my expectations. I wasted countless energy being nervous and skeptical of an event that had not yet happened. I wasted time thinking negative instead of focusing on making the event as good as possible. I am not sure if you are in a position to plan events but if you are, focus on being positive and working hard rather than being worried and negative.

I think I will probably do another Lock-In next year. It seemed to work well for our group. Whether you decide to host a Lock-In or not, I want to encourage you to guard your expectations and move forward with positivity and hard work.


The events we plan are important, but the lessons they teach us are vital to our growth as leaders.