Lock-Ins: Wait…Am I In Youth Group Or Prison?

I’ve always found the idea of church lock-ins a bit perplexing.

What is a lock-in, you ask?

It’s when a large group of hormonally pulsing, frontal-lobe-still-forming, lighting farts on fire is fun, think about sex a lot, youth group members are herded into a church and locked in for at least 12 hours.

Sounds like a good idea, right?

From what I can tell, lock-ins occur in two places: maximum security prisons and youth groups.

That should probably tell us something.

When I was in my early teens, my youth group did a lock-in in conjunction with the 30 Hour Famine.

The 30 Hour Famine was/is (does it still exist?) an event created by World Vision that was/is supposed to teach people what poverty is like. You don’t eat for 30 hours, and boom, you get it. You suddenly understand what it’s like to live in a one-room shack in a third world country and get dysentery on a regular basis.

Or something like that.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn those lessons.

I learned that playing night tag is a great way to simultaneously sprain both ankles. 

See, one of the key elements of every lock-in is playing youth group games (YGG as they’re commonly known in homeschool gangs – the most notorious ones are The Acute Angles and Teapot Dome Scandals).

How are YGG different than other games, such as Parcheesi, Connect 4, and Trivial Pursuit?

All youth group games must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They are incredibly disgusting. What’s a great way to teach kids about the glory of Christ? How about by having them eat Oreos, brush their teeth, and then share that toothbrush with others in the game? Yeah, that’ll do it! How can we teach these kids about the importance of forgiveness? Of course! By forcing them to put pantyhose over their heads and then eat Jello! It’s brilliant!
  • Significant injury may occur. At the youth camp I attended, we played a game called, creatively, “Monster Ball”. It worked like this. A six-foot-tall ball was placed in the middle of the field. Two teams of six lined up on either side of the ball and used all their strength to push the ball across the opponent’s goal line.
    Now, keep in mind, the age range at this camp was from 7th-12th grade. There were some very small 7th grade girls and some huge 12th grade boys. Like, linebacker size. Like, could beat me up now, size.There would come a point in every Monster Ball game when a massive boy would get a head of steam and start bulldozing the ball down the field at locomotive speed. Inevitably, a noble, yet clinically insane 70 pound girl would step in front of the ball to try to stop it. And she would be absolutely destroyed. Thrown into the air, arms flailing, shoes possibly coming off, maybe a tooth or two knocked out. It usually looked like this:

So what game did we play during the 30 Hour Famine lock-in? Night tag, of course! Inside the church. In the pitch black with zero lights. What could possibly go wrong?


I was a serious night tag player. I dressed in dark clothes, like a young, awkward Navy Seal who had never had any training and could be easily beat up.

When someone was chasing me, I ran fast. I trusted my highly honed senses to keep me from making contact with any large, solid, potentially bone-crushing objects.

In retrospect, I now see that running full speed in the dark wasn’t the best idea. After all, the first rule of walking in the dark is that you will step on Lego, which science has proven is second only to childbirth on the pain scale. Running in the dark only magnifies the danger.

I was hiding in an upstairs room when I was discovered. Relying on my cat-like reflexes, I took off running toward the stairs faster than an MxPx song. I made it down the first few stairs without a problem.

Then I sprained ankle number one.

The stab of pain threw me off balance, causing me to pitch forward and sprain my other ankle.

Then I tumbled to the bottom of the stairs where I lay in a crumpled heap, my brief and rather boring life flashing before my eyes.

That was the last time I did a lock-in. Or ran full speed in the dark. Or did the 30 Hour Famine.

Like I said, I didn’t learn a whole lot about poverty that night. Also, the fact that we were allowed to drink juice all night definitely made the experience a bit easier.

To make matters worse, the following night a local Christian ska band was doing a concert at the church. Ska was a musical genre that lasted approximately four minutes during the 1990s and involved a dance called “skanking”, which sounds kinda dirty but it’s not.

Imagine a dance created for people who can’t dance, and that’s skanking.

It looks like this:

It’s really hard to skank (again, not dirty) with sprained ankles.

Then again, I was an awkward homeschool kid who had the dance moves of a spastic Mennonite. So it was probably good that I couldn’t dance.

Do you want to know how I did learn about poverty? From my parents, who sponsored World Vision children from the time I was young.

I saw how committed they were to using their money to care for the poor.

All this drives home two points.

  • Church is weird (see the title of this website).
  • Parents are responsible for training their kids, not the church (although the church is also hugely important).

In fact, one of the things I’m most grateful about my youth group was that they really valued the parents. So did I learn about poverty at the lock-in? Not really.

But I had fun. Except for when I sprained my ankles.

Favor: This site is new. I’d be grateful if you could help spread the word by sharing this post. Plus, you’ll get triple heavenly rewards. Trust me on this. It’s in the Bible. In the original Greek. Really obscure passage.

6 Replies to “Lock-Ins: Wait…Am I In Youth Group Or Prison?”

  1. Can confirm! This story is 100% true. I was there. I remember this vividly as I was “it” for that particular round.

  2. But if you were the pastor’s kid (were you at that time?) you had the advantage in night tag of knowing every nook and cranny of the church, having owned it as your personal playground since toddlerhood. Sorry it didn’t work out that way😕.

  3. Thanks for the information. Now I know that I won’t attend any youth group ever. My fellow christian friends wants me to go to their youth group. I can choose either to attend, or not to attend. My choice: not to attend. I’m already 19 years old, by the way. I am a christian who reads your posts and the Holy Bible.

  4. I have a friend who was in an Amish-themed ska band called the Skankin’ Buvas. Your post brings back good memories of ska music. In particular, I’m a fan of the OC Supertones.

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