Teens love a lock-in event because it is like one giant slumber party with a ton of their peers. Teens get to stay up all night in the school gym or at a church playing games, dancing, being silly and chatting with friends old and new. If you are planning a lock-in for a group of your teen's friends, be sure to include a variety of age-appropriate activities for the kids to choose from that will keep them entertained and excited throughout the night.
Icebreakers are an ideal way to start a teen lock-in, especially if many of the kids do not know each other. One getting-to-know-you icebreaker to try is to put kids into random groups of three. The kids must talk to each other to discover three things they all have in common. It cannot be anything obvious such as gender, age or what they are currently wearing. When the whole group gets back together, the groups introduce each other and tell everyone what they have in common. For another introduction icebreaker, have the kids stand in a circle and go around saying their name and a word that starts with the first letter of their name, while trying to keep in time to a particular beat. One teen might say, "Amy. (clap, clap, snap, snap) Apples." The next teen must repeat that and then add on with her own name. If anyone forgets or goes off the beat, the whole group has to start over from the beginning.
Put the kids into teams for a series of hilarious competitions that emphasize teamwork. Have relay races where the kids have to get to a cone and back doing anything but running normally. You might have the first person in line run backwards, the second person in line do a crab walk and the third person hop on one foot. For a relay obstacle course, you could have each member go through a course that includes crawling underneath a table, zig-zagging through cones, jumping between plastic hoops, doing a silly dance for five seconds and putting on over-sized clothes before running back to the team. For other team competitions, you could have the teams form a human knot by getting in a tight circle and reaching across to grab someone's hand. Each person should be holding hands with two different people. The first team who can successfully get out of the knot without breaking apart wins. You can also have traditional sport competitions with games such as basketball, floor hockey and dodge ball.
Since lock-ins typically stretch into the wee hours of the morning, challenge the kids to a dance marathon, to see who can stay on the dance floor the longest. The kids can only stop for five-minute bathroom breaks. Anyone who leaves the designated dance floor at any other time is disqualified. Plan a big prize for the last person standing. Alternatively, you could hold a variety of dance competitions with a funky chicken competition to see who can flap their "wings" like a pro. Have a best original dance moves competition or put on a Soul Train Line. Make sure the kids know to keep dances appropriate, or they will be asked to leave the dance floor.
Plan activities based on the point of the lock-in. If it is a youth church lock-in, set aside time for small group devotions and bible study. Keep it teen-friendly by incorporating games such as "find that verse" or other Bible trivia. If you are having a leadership lock-in, have small group discussions where the kids brainstorm characteristics of leadership or make a collage of words that relate to leadership. Encourage the kids to brainstorm ways to prevent bullying or stop it when they see it happening. If it is a senior lock-in, have the teens work on a huge art mural that they can hang in the school during senior week, or divide the kids into groups to work on the senior T-shirt design. All the seniors will then vote on a shirt they like best, other than their own, to determine the winning design.
You can play age-appropriate movies, but avoid playing the movies in a separate room unless this activity will be well-supervised. Movies can be a good wind-down activity for younger teens who may tire and want to sleep. Keep movies PG-13 and keep the lights on. You might want to send home a list of movies to the parents beforehand to see if there are any that parents do not approve of.