Tips for Planning a Youth Lock-in

So, you're planning a lock-in…

Creating engaging plans for today's youth.

  • Icebreakers and name-games are fun openers. They're not difficult to find online (try, or at your local library. The goal here is to get the group feeling comfortable and open. Icebreakers are worth doing, even if you only have one new person. For already close-knit groups, they can be a good way to check-in.
    • New and Good. Pass a ball around. The person with the ball should share one thing from the week that was new (positive or negative), and one thing that was good. This can be paired with introductions.
    • Concentric Circles. Have the group form two circles, one inside the other, facing one another. Pair up. Ask a question and instruct one person to talk while the other listens. (You can allow time for the other to share or not.) Rotate around so that everyone gets the chance to talk to everyone else. Questions can be of a get-to-know-you nature (What kind of toothpaste do you use?) or more focused. For example:

*What has your congregation taught you about peacemaking?

*What about peacemaking doesn't make sense to you?

*What about peacemaking does make sense to you?

*What peacemaking skills do you already have?

  • Bible Study is an important element, but it never hurts to take a fresh approach. Ask the youth to read scripture. Have them rewrite stories in their own words, using their own language. Hand them a bag of random objects and tell them to create a skit about a Bible story using all of the objects.
    • Lectio Devina. Yeah, it's a fancy word-but your youth can handle it. It means "divine reading," and is traditional practice for approaching scripture. Read the scripture aloud repeatedly, until certain words or phrases call out for attention. Encourage the group to meditate on the text. Tell them to listen for those phrases that stand out and hear what God is speaking to them. As they engage more deeply with the scripture, give them opportunities to pray. (Their prayers may manifest themselves in writing, drawing, sculpting, etc. Be sure to have materials on hand for inspired artwork.) Invite them to continue to sit with the text and keep that awareness with them. [Note: You can use a similar method, and ask them to meditate on a question. For example: What action do you hear God calling you to take for justice or reconciliation in this moment?]
  • Meaningful Conversation. It's no secret that youth face many challenges. Giving them opportunities to discuss what's going on is one of the most helpful things you can do.
    • Feelings Meter. This exercise gives the youth an opportunity to consider their feelings on a given subject, and also gives the leader a better feel for the group. Explain that you will be making statements. Designate one end of the room, "Agree" and the opposite end, "Disagree". Ask the youth to place themselves on a continuum with relation to each statement you make. Give them a practice round with something simple, like Strawberry ice cream is the best. To show complete agreement, they'd stand at the "Agree" end of the room, but if strawberry were only their third choice, they might be somewhere toward the "Agree" end, but nearer the middle of the room. Then try it with something juicier, like, I believe that God made me the way I am for a reason or, Jesus' teachings mean that I cannot participate in any aspect of the military. Invite youth to share why they are standing where they are standing. Try to get a variety of opinions.
  • Take Action. Empower your group to "walk the walk" of Christianity-bringing words into action. There are lots of places to take action, from school hallways to the local soup kitchen or even your government buildings.
  • Tug for justice (Adapted from Training for Change's "Macro-Strategy Tug of War" by George Lakey)  This is a great way to visualize strategy for faith-based action. [Note: this activity works well outside or in a gym. You will need several strong ropes, which you will knot together in the middle, creating a multi-ended rope.]   

1) Ask the group: What issues affect our community? Choose one issue to work on. What is working in favor of our overcoming this issue? What is working against us?  Write down all responses on big paper.

2) Split the group into two sides, one to represent the favorable forces, and one to represent the unfavorable forces at work.

3) The tug begins. One person starts by calling out their force (i.e. "Our recycling program doesn't work!"), and goes to pull on one end of the rope. Not to be outdone, someone from the other side calls out their counter-force ("We have a strong environmental group at school!") and pulls a piece of rope from the other end. The players join in, alternating "forces."

4) After one side wins the tug, split into groups again for debriefing. Negative force team asks themselves: how could the power of negative forces be under-mined? Positive force team asks themselves: how can the power of positive forces be enhanced? Give both teams time to share.

  • Be Creative! You can tie almost any activity into your theme.
    • Watching a popular movie with the group? Use it as an opportunity to start a discussion. What was the message of the film? Is this film like your life in any way? Possible topics are media violence (and our desensitization to it), body image, healthy relationships, gender roles, substance abuse, racism, consumerism, etc.
    • If you're going hiking, use it as a chance to explore the relationship between humans and nature. What does it mean for us to "rule over" creation (Genesis 1:28)? How can we be better stewards of the earth?
    • Playing games for the sake of fellowship is totally great! After all, youth activities are a great way for youth to experience what it means to be God's community.