The term youth ministry is synonymous youth lock-in. Teenagers like being together and staying up all night and telling everyone about it the next day.

I recently experienced my 12th all night lock-in. To be honest, I was having doubts about my ability to do this much longer. The blood vessels in the whites of my eyes are telling of my lack of ability in this area. Maybe lock-in’s shouldn’t be something youth leaders do after a certain age? Maybe I’m just not cut out for them any more? Maybe none of us are cut out for them? Are they even healthy? I feel like I’m shaving years off of my life every time I participate in one of these blasted things. But the more I think about it, there was never a time when I didn’t want to crawl under a bench and go to sleep at 3 a.m.

Every year, my eyes get more red. They are blood shot for days. I’m delirious. I speak of nonsense. And the leaders who’ve been with me the longest know that I should never, ever, under any circumstances operate a vehicle when I’m tired. No ma’am.

They could tell you stories, but they wouldn’t, because they love me and know that I’ve seen them tired too and it’s a sacred thing to experience a lock-in with each other. It’s something that binds you for eternity in a brotherhood and sisterhood of believers who have gone through something epic together.

I have one friend who has been at my side for five lock-ins. She and I know this…what happens at Denny’s, stays at Denny’s. We didn’t go to Denny’s this year. However, a friend on our team may have ordered the entire snack bar menu at 4a.m. And he ate it all. We didn’t judge. We laughed over his choice of calorie free water and took photos just in case he were to forget what happened.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to this special annual tradition.
In fact, I was praying and thinking about how I could keep from feeling like truck hit me for six days after it was over.

I decided to keep the students in mind. They love this. They love this. They love this.
Like a kid in trouble who writes sentences for her teacher. I repeated the mantra.

They love this. They will remember this.
They love this. They will remember this.
I love them. I will get to know them.
I love them. I will get to know them.
God loves them more. There will be moments for them to know this.
God loves them more. There will be moments for them to know this.

And then I came up with a plan. I decided to take a nap before the lock-in. (On my husbands recommendation)
I know you’re thinking, “well, captain obvious, what a concept” because it took me over a decade to figure this one out but at least it happened, alright!
And I made a few other minor changes.

The results. I didn’t find one red blood vessel in my eyes post lock-in.
I welcomed the morning with my husband and kids without talking gibberish or being too grumpy (I think it’s impossible not to be a little grumpy post lock-in but there are various degrees of grumpy that are flat out mean and nasty and I managed to dodge that degree this time, which makes me super excited.) Coy took the girls and I slept well until noon and woke up feeling refreshed and happy and glad that we had a great lock-in evening the night before without need for first aid, or a “sit-down talk”, or an intervention.

Here’s the list of the changes.
They aren’t medically proven or research based or tested on anyone else but me.
Rather, they are my experience, something that worked and made my lock-in lovely this round.
Maybe you have your own tricks? I’d love to know them for next year. Because we all know….there will be a next year.

Pre lock-in suggestion:
Set your registration and forms deadline a week before you actually need them. There will always be a few last minute things to take care of but setting the deadline a week early ensures that there aren’t dozens of last minute things to take care of. Christina (she’s really the magic behind HPNY organization) was able to submit bus lists (in case of emergency) to our staff, alphabetize medical release forms, make notes on what was still missing and notify parents. We worked as a team to trouble shoot vehicle needs, drivers, etc. And all of that happened and was sorted out before the event. And because we worked as a team we were able to do some of the things listed below. (If you don’t have a team you should! recruit someone today and start investing in them every chance you get.)

  • Take a mid-morning nap the day of the event.
  • Hydrate all day long.
  • Eat light, you know you’ll be eating later on.
  • Drink a smoothie with protien and other nutrients going into the evening.
  • Only eat the toppings of the pizza. Go easy on the carbonation.
  • Take leaders who love teenagers, and go-carts, and fun.
  • Mildly healthy snacking every 2 hours or so. We all know that totally healthy…doesn’t exist.
  • Hire drivers. (If you’re traveling.) Don’t even try to be super human. That’s just dumb.
  • Come up with something creative (and time-consuming) to pass the time. I used two pairs of glasses to get our students to instagram each other/ get to know each other.
  • Get a sitter if you have kids, clear the schedule the next morning and sleep a few hours.
  • Bonus suggestion. Beat another youth leader on the go-carts and pass up the kid who has talked the most smack all night about being the fastest. That’s enough to keep anyone going for at least another hour! 
Yes! Success.
(Confession: I didn’t technically beat our high school pastor Tomy when we raced. I grabbed a car in the wrong lane and ended up driving the course in no man’s land. But hey, beating him, Drew, Christina, Daniel, Ignatio, and Romeo in my head was awesome!)
So hey, let me know what tricks you’ve learned and how they’ve helped. You can comment here or email me and I’ll post what’ you’ve got. Together we’ll avenge these lock-in situations and make them even better than peeps could imagine.

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