The Value of THE LOCK-IN
Years ago I was talking with an old friend of mine. He was my senior pastor growing up as a kid but like many senior pastors, he cut his ministry teeth in youth ministry. We were talking about life, faith and ministry when he asked me what my next “BIG” thing was. With joy in my voice, I said our annual lock-in. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Jesse, you will know when you’re done in youth ministry the minute you dread lock-in’s.” He went on to talk about his lack of love for that event.
Though I respected him like crazy, I 100% disagreed with him then and 15 years later I still disagree with him. I firmly believe that the lock-in is not only an amazing event but one of the most strategic and impactful events we can do in youth ministry. But before we go there, let’s deal with the major criticisms I’ve heard over the years.
- It’s just too much work
- Nothing good happens after midnight
- It’s expensive
- You can never watch everyone
- It’s hard on kids and leaders
- I’m “TOO OLD” for this kind of thing
- They do nothing for the Kingdom
More often than not these are the things youth pastors and leaders say, heck I may have said a few of these myself at the4:00 am mark of a lock-in. However, for me, all of these things, no matter how true they may feel in the moment, could not stop me from believing in lock-ins. The reason for that is one simple word… RELATIONSHIPS.
Relationships: The Foundation of Youth Ministry
I believe that RELATIONSHIPS are the foundation of Youth Ministry. Our primary purpose is to lead students into a personal relationship with Jesus. As pastors, we look at the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20,
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We create programs, sermons, activities, outreaches, and devotionals to help our students become disciples of Jesus and grow deeper and deeper in their relationship with Him. But in order for this to happen, we need to KNOW our students, we need to BE in their lives, we need to have a RELATIONSHIP with them.
Building Relationship Capital
I call this “Relationship Capital” and the only way to build it is to spend time with students, to talk with students, to engage in students lives. Every time you show up at a basketball game, dance recital or band concert you build “Relational Capital.” Every frozen shirt contest, capture the flag game, worship night, sermon, small group or coffee conversation is an opportunity to build “Relationship Capital.”
With all that said there has always been one event that above all else has always yielded the best “Relationship Capital.” It gets more kids then any event, there is tons of time to talk and get to know kids, its full of memory making moments (I puked on a kid once), it can be spiritual or social or both. At just one lock-in, I can get 3-6 months worth of “Relationship Capital.” I can’t do that with any other kind of event on such a large scale with such a diverse group of kids. It is for this reason alone that the lock-in is one of the BEST events in youth ministry.
See when we build “Relationship Capital” with students we are playing a long game in their lives. See God is always working in the lives of our kids, and one day they will come along with a deeper question. When life get complicated or their world falls apart they will seek you out and ask for help, and that is the moment that lock-ins were really created for.
- It’s just too much work – all relationships are
- Nothing good happens after midnight – except the best conversations
- It’s expensive – sure is but it’s worth it
- You can never watch everyone – nope but that’s what your team is for
- It’s physically hard on kids and leaders – it can be but the cost is worth the relational benefit
- I’m “TOO OLD” for this kind of thing – probably but I think it’s worth it don’t you?
- They do nothing for the Kingdom – actually they can fuel kingdom growth
I’m not saying that lock-ins are easy or without challenges. What I am saying is that to me they are worth all the other issues because of what it gives me… “Relationship Capital.” When that is the goal of the night then it shapes how we look at everything. It shapes how our leaders prepare for the event and it shapes how we see the kids that come out. Most of them come for a good time, it’s a late night party with their friends. They are coming with that in mind, but we don’t have to take that view. We can see the event for what it really is…. an opportunity to disciple.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesse Criss is the Grade 11/12 Pastor at Willingdon Church and he recently founded FRESH MINISTRY CONSULTING. He is a veteran Youth Pastor with 17 years worth of experience, is married and has beautiful twin girls.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.