Lock-ins... let's be honest, students love them, youth pastors hate them. If you are on any Youth Pastor Facebook group you will get many (funny) responses to "Ideas for a lock-in", most of these responses are "Don't" or GIFS that say "RUN". Maybe you are with me on this and you are that youth leader who HATES LOCK-INS. Well the good news is I am going to give you fuel for your fire. If you are one of those youth pastors who likes them.... well you probably are just starting out and may eventually understand.
So without further ado here are my top 10 reasons to stop doing a lock-in:
10. It breaks up the "we have to do what we have done before" routine.
Most of us may be doing lock-ins because the youth pastor from 5-10 years ago started doing them so that's just what you do. STOP THAT. Take time to evaluate what you are doing. Is this helping to accomplish the goals of your ministry? Is this successful in your context? Is this the best use of your time and your volunteers time?
9. It's hard to keep the level of excellence up for 10+ hours.
We all want an event to be successful and to have excellence. If you don't... well again that's another conversation for another day. But with an event that lasts for 10+ hours, it is hard for there to be excellence the whole time. We used to run lock-ins with 300+ students. LET ME TELL YOU that at 5am excellence went out the window, at that point it was all about keeping kids alive, out of trouble and not destroying the building.
8. No matter how "good" your students are....someone is making out somewhere.
We work with teenagers. By definition they are raging balls of hormones. Why do we set them up for failure to stay all night in a building with lots of crazy hiding spaces. No matter how many times you yell "No purple-ing" there is probably a couple somewhere doing something they are not supposed to be.
7. You don't really like lock-ins. Why do you keep doing things you don't like?
Now I know what you are going to say... I do lots of things I don't like to do, isn't that just apart of life? This doesn't have to be. Lock-ins are mentally and physically exhausting. Usually, it can take DAYS to recover from one. So why would you put yourself through that torture?
6. Lock-ins are time consuming with many times little reward for long term ministry.
I did lock-ins at my current position for 6 years before we stopped. They seemed successful. Students would come and we would have big crowds and it seemed great. What I realized is that long term they didn't really make a difference. Most students who came, never came to back to our church and we didn't see long term fruit from it. It was an event for event sake. Take a look at your last few lock-ins, was there an influx of students who came back to your ministry? Did you have long term gain from it?
5. It's harder to get non-church parents to let a student stay all night (especially if it's their first event at the church).
Most of the time lock-ins are meant to be a way for your students to reach other students. That can be an uphill battle if they have never been to church before and are wanting to stay ALL night at the church.... Parents who are not around the church are already skeptical about church and now you want their student to stay all night, with probably not enough super vision?
4. Lock-ins usually will not move your ministry forward.
This again goes back to the whole "your doing what you always done" mentality. What would really help your students move forward? What will help your students take next steps? Will staying up all night while doing a nerf gun tournament in the middle of the night really help? I mean maybe? But most likely there is better uses of your time and energy.
3. Lock-ins can become an insiders event quickly.
If your goal of your lock-in is to just build community with your students, then you probably could do it. BUT if you are wanting to build momentum or outreach, they can quickly become an insider event, rather than an outreach event.
2. VOLUNTEERS HATE LOCK-INS
In my experience you will have a great turn out for volunteers from 8p-1am. After that, only the barely legal volunteers will be there. Once we did a lock-in and 350+ students showed up! We had tons of volunteers until about 3am. At that point I'm pretty sure we had 10 volunteers in the building. A student jumped off the second story balcony and fell through a ceiling... It was not my best moment as a youth leader. That was the last lock-in we ever had.
1. There are better alternatives out there.
After that lock-in fiasco, we started to think about what we could do to have a greater impact, more volunteers and more reach. For us it led to The Big Party. A 3-4 hour event that had all the elements of a lock-in, with more volunteers. It was super successful. I'm not saying you have to do that, but I am saying is to take a deep look at what you are doing and see if there is an alternative event that would produce more fruit. Yes, students still asked for lock-ins but we just redirected them to our vision and why it no longer lined up with it.
So this is my list. Maybe you agree with it, maybe you don't. I would love to hear your thoughts and what you think I missed from this list as well. My hope is we would get out of the cycle of "what we have always done" and think deeply about the events we do and why we do them.