Lock-ins are a fun, exciting event for any youth organization. They usually draw many teens who may not usually come to your meetings, and they are an opportunity to spend more extended time with the teens who do come. However, the thought of a lock-in is often a daunting one to leaders and volunteers. How can you possibly stay up all night long? What will you do with the group for an entire 12 hours straight, especially since you have to stay inside? There are many activities that will make your lock-in enjoyable and easy to plan.
A lock-in is the perfect opportunity to play games that you usually don't have time for in your regular meetings. There are many games that teens love that you ordinarily wouldn't have time to play. Many of them need very few or even no props. One example that can only be played at lock-ins is "Murder in the Dark." All you need is a deck of cards. Pick out enough cards from a deck for everyone to get one card, making sure that the cards include one ace and two jacks. Pass the cards out to everyone; whoever gets the ace is the the killer, and the players who get the jacks are the police officers. Then turn out all the lights in the building, and turn the group loose to wander around. The killer will try to "kill" people by drawing his hand across their neck, but he has to do it without anyone else seeing. Once the killer kills someone, the victim is no longer allowed to talk, and she has to follow the killer. He can hide her anywhere he wants. The goal of everyone else is to find the hidden bodies, and the killer's goal is to kill everyone before he is found out. If someone finds a hidden body, he shouts, "Murder in the dark!" The leader then turns the lights on, and everyone gathers back in the room where the game started. The dead people stand on one side of the room and the live people stand on the other side, with the police officers in the middle. The police can each ask two questions of any single person who's still alive. Then they have to guess who the killer is. If they guess right, then the round ends and play starts again, with everyone getting new cards. If they guess wrong, turn out the lights and keep playing. Another long game you could play at a lock-in is "Survivor." Divide the teens into teams (or "tribes") at the beginning of the night, and plan a series of competitions that last throughout the night. Use different types of games, some athletic, some thinking and some cooperative, to help balance it out so it's less likely that one team will win all of them. Have the teams collect points throughout the night, and have a good prize for the winning team.
Games with Complicated Preparation
Lock-ins are also a good opportunity to play games that require long or complicated preparation. For a short meeting, you probably wouldn't want to invest the time to play these kinds of activities. But when you have 12 hours to fill, the setup time is worth it. An example is inflatables, which are expensive but sure to be a hit at a lock-in. Another example is karaoke—you could set up a stage and sound system and have kids singing all night long.
A third type of activity to include in your lock-in is quieter games that will help the teens wind down as the night wears on. At some point, you and many of the teens will realize that staying up all night long really wasn't such a great idea. Many of them will want to go to sleep. You should have an area of the building where they can set out sleeping bags where it will be mostly quiet (preferably two separate areas for boys and girls). Once a majority of people seem to want to go to sleep, you should shift to quieter activities for those who are staying up, such as movies, card games or board games. Chances are that if you put a movie on and let the kids bring their sleeping bags out to watch it, most of them will fall asleep even if they weren't planning on it.