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Pulling Off an Online Lock-In

Looking for a COVID-friendly subsitution for your youth all-nighter? Try pulling off an online lock-in! 

I’ve never been a huge fan of all-nighter’s, except for when I was a teenager.

This Online Lock-In is more of a check-in than an all-nighter and, frankly, it’s one of the best things we’ve done to connect with our middle school students during the pandemic.

The event is pretty simple. Instead of having an “all-nighter,” we decided to have hourly check-ins all day. We ran this event from 2 PM to 10 PM. Each hour at the top of the hour for 10-15 minutes we hosted elements of fun, surprise, worship, etc.—we just wanted to be champions of getting together and encouraging our teenagers.

Details of Our Online Lock-In

We created a Zoom link that was the same all day long. We posted that link in our private social media accounts as well as to families via email. Here’s a list of some of the things we used and some that we could have:

  • Students reading their favorite Bible verses.
  • Pictionary—choose someone to draw, everyone else guesses.
  • Music—We invited two high school brothers to lead three songs from their home.
  • Snack Time—everyone brought a snack, and shared why they like it.
  • Funny Videos—you can share your screen so everybody can watch videos that you’re playing.
  • Student Talent—we asked kids to read a poem they wrote, do a magic trick, tell a joke, or play an instrument.
  • To encourage students to show up all day we gave away a “secret letter” every hour. If they attended every session, they had all the letters, and if they could unscramble the word, we would give them a prize. The word was C.O.O.K.I.E.S.—the plan was to deliver cookies to every teenager who privately messaged the answer correctly.
  • Weekly Programming—at the 6 o’clock hour we pointed teenagers to our weekly YouTube program instead of the Online Lock-In Zoom link.
  • Trivia—Google “fun trivia” or buy some age-appropriate trivia cards from Amazon.
  • PowerPoint Games (share your screen).
  • Expert Leaders—invite all of your leaders to show up at a specific hour and ask them to each share, in a  30-second burst, their expertise about something—anything! Make it two different times if you have too many leaders for one session.
  • Scavenger Hunt—we had a list of things that we asked students to find and bring back to show everyone on the screen. First to return wins a point.
  • Bedtime Stories—our middle school pastor closed the night by sharing a few funny stories during the very last hour.

Make It Your Own

The opportunities for online lock-in activities are endless. You can do anything you want at the top of the hour. We didn’t try to lead a Bible study and we didn’t make everybody watch a sermon—we just got together to have fun. After we complete each of the sessions, we announced what the next session would be so students would come prepared. For example, we said, “See you at 4 o’clock—come ready with your favorite Bible verse.” Then at 4 p.m., we let everyone who brought a Bible read the verse if they wanted to. It didn’t matter if three students brought their verse or if 27 were ready, we let everybody have an opportunity and we shut down the Zoom when we were done. One of our sessions took over a half-hour and everyone loved it.

Pro-tip—the mute button is your friend. We always unmute it for everyone during the last 30 seconds and it was the craziest, most chaotic, silliest moment of every hour… It was pretty great. Add your own ideas in the Comment section below—share your creativity.

Looking for more COVID related ideas? Check out these articles!

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Pulling Off an Online Lock-In

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