How To Survive A Youth Lock-In

So you think you’ve got what it takes to stay up all night with a legion of rowdy teens amped up on pepperoni pizza, red vines, and red bulls? We hope you’re right. But if you’re at all hesitant, we’ve pulled together our list of tips and tricks that will teach you how to survive a youth Lock-In.

  • Call for Back-Up – At about 3am, you’re gonna hit a wall. Your energy will drain and you’ll regret ever going into ministry in the first place. That’s when you’re gonna need somebody who can help you scale the wall and push on till sunrise. Gather a great team of adult volunteers who can back you up when your fatigue catches up with you.
    • Pro-Tip: Break your team into 2 groups. Then schedule groups into 2-hour high-energy shifts alternating throughout the night. Every 2 hours your teams will have a chance to chill doing lower-energy tasks before coming back into high-energy games and activities.
  • Grub On – Food is super important for your all-night youth lock-in, but if you think you’ll be able to keep up with the kids eating only pizza, chips, and soda, you’re lying to yourself – and lying is a sin. You need to eat right to stay up all night!
    • Breakfast (morning of the pending event) – Eat a big, yummy breakfast, but keep it healthy. Healthy carbs like wheat cereal or oatmeal, light proteins like turkey bacon or ham, and fresh fruits will start you off right.
    • Lunch – Grab a healthy sandwich made with whole grain bread, some lean meats, and vegetables. Watch out for spicy or greasy foods that might send you to the bathroom right when your kids are arriving.
    • Dinner – Enjoy your last meal before the chaos begins, but don’t get crazy. Avoid the greasy burger or pizza that will weigh you down. Eat some chicken for energy and fresh fruits and veggies for sugars. Carb-load with whole grain pasta or beans – lots of beans.
    • After Midnight – Graze like a Brahma Bull! Don’t wolf down a sloppy joe with the kids or order a pile of fries. And if you see a doughnut or brownies, run the other way. You’ll flatline before you know it. Pick at healthy food throughout the night like carrots, nuts, trail mix.


“Staying healthy is the best way to survive a youth lock-in.”

  • Wet Your Whistle – Stay hydrated all day before and throughout the event. It’s easy to forget this, so set an alarm on your phone or tell a friend to remind you. If you want coffee or energy drinks, use them wisely. A healthy diet will do you better than caffeine. Have a strong coffee drink as the event begins, then if you think you need another, wait until after 2am when you may need it most. Caffeine takes up to 6 hours to leave your system, so if you want to hit the hay right after the event, get your java fix early.
  • Stay Cool – If you start feeling warm and comfortable, your body will think it’s time to sleep. Try to keep the whole event at a cool 70 degrees or less. If it’s not too cold out, keep a window open and stay near it. Whatever you do, don’t take a break on a couch with a blanket. You’ll dip into drowsy before you can say “ZZZZZZZZZ!”
  • Light It Up – If your Lock-In includes laser tag, cosmic bowling, or a movie, you’re bound to spend most of the night in dark rooms. But your body responds to darkness by trying to put you to sleep. Keep everybody wide awake with activities in the bright lights of a gym, church sanctuary, or halls. The added benefit of bright lights is you’ll reduce the opportunities for young passions to have a place to hide.
  • Pray Hard – Like any ministry, your most important survival tool is prayer. Ask the Lord to give you energy and keep you alert to the spiritual needs of your students. Pray for your volunteers and their endurance for the task, not just at the event but as they minister to the kids in the future. And pray that kids who come to your Lock-In will hear the gospel and come to the Lord!

Are you a Lock-In pro? Help us help other youth leaders by sharing your expertise on how to survive a youth Lock-In. Leave your tips in the comments below.


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