Lock-ins are events that many Kid’s Ministries don’t even attempt because they can seem difficult or daunting, but they don’t have to be scary if they are scheduled and organized. We plan one or two lock-ins each year, and the kids always ask when the next one is coming. We don’t really have a set budget for our lock-ins. We always aim for covering the majority of our cost by charging $15 per child. We increase the cost to $20 per child for late registration one week prior to the event. We don’t ask our leaders to pay since they are giving their time and energy to serve our kids. First-time guests are always free at our events to encourage kids to invite their unchurched friends. We had lower attendance than normal due to scheduling the lock-in during our fall break, but we still came way under budget. We only spent about $250 on EVERYTHING for this lock-in making it by far the cheapest lock-in we have ever done. It was still a huge hit with the kids so don’t equate budget-friendly as boring and lame. It doesn’t have to be that way!  Instead of going through the entire schedule, I’m going to focus on the theme, food, and activities/games. If you are interested in seeing a full schedule for planning your own lock-in you can reference my Lock-in Schedule. It is very detailed, including a full service and message you can use during the event.


We decided to use our theme we were using for our fall/winter curriculum series for our lock-in as well. We launched our #blessed series the following Sunday, focusing on the beatitudes or blessings Jesus taught on in Matthew 5. We will be releasing our 8-week #blessed curriculum in December. For our # theme, we used lots of hashtags of course and printed polaroid style pictures from services and events and strung them with fun over-sized frames. We had a lot of fun creating some social media and hashtag themed games/activities. We were able to use a lot of the items we used for the photo booth and games at the lock-in in our set design for the #blessed series which saved us even more on our budget.


Service Game 1: # It!


  • Two small dry erase boards
  • Two dry erase markers
  • Funny memes (with no words) on slides

How to play:

  1. Choose two kids for each round. Hand them a small dry erase board and a marker.
  2. A picture will come up on the screen and the kids will have to come up with a funny hashtag for the picture and write it on their dry erase board.
  3. Give them 10 seconds to come up with a hashtag.
  4. After the 10 seconds they must reveal their hashtag to the audience.
  5. The audience will vote on which hashtag is the funniest.
  6. Give the winner a prize.
  7. Play more rounds choosing two new kids for each round.

Service Game 2: Match the Emoji


  • Emoji balloons or balls (with different emoji faces on them)
  • Small pieces of paper (with the same emoji faces on them as the balls/balloons)
  • A small bucket/container (put the small pieces of paper in the bucket)

How to play:

  1. Dump all of the balloons/balls at the back of the room before beginning the game.
  2. Choose 2 kids to play in each round.
  3. The leader will pull an emoji out of the bucket and show it to both of the kids.
  4. When the leader says go, the kids will race down to the balloons to try to find the balloon that has an emoji that matches.
  5. The first kid to bring back the balloon with the correct emoji face on it wins. Give them a prize.
  6. Play several rounds choosing new kids for each round.

Indoor Activity 1: Emoji Bingo


  • Emoji bingo cards  (we laminated ours so we could re-use them)
  • Small cups
  • Candy (for markers)
  • Prizes for winners

How to Play:

  1. Give each player a card and a cup of candy (we used candy corn pumpkins because it was October).
  2. Call out Emoji faces instead of numbers.
  3. Keep playing until someone gets a bingo and give them a prize.
  4. Play as many rounds as you like or until you run out of prizes. (Our kids would have played for over an hour if we had let them!)

Indoor Activity 2: # Photobooth


  • Backdrop (We used these giant iPhones we made a long time ago for the Life Apps series we did. Check out this post for the instructions on how we made them.)
  • Giant inflatable hashtags
  • Small hashtags (made out of foam board and painted)
  • Various emoji/hashtag images printed on card stock, cut out, and hot glued to dowel rods

Outdoor Games

Before beginning the games, we broke the group into two teams (boys vs. girls may be the easiest unless the numbers are a lot different.) Give the teams two different colors of glow sticks to wear so every one will know who is on each team. Setup cones down the center of the field to create two sides. If you have a gym or larger indoor space you can play these games indoors.


  • Glow sticks (two colors)
  • Two large hashtags (we made them out of poster board, see picture above)
  • Hash tag stickers (We couldn’t find these pre-made so we just bought white circle stickers and drew hashtags on them.)
  • Cones
  • Giant emoji volleyball

Outdoor Game 1: Capture the Hashtag

How to Play:

  1. Give each team a hashtag they will be trying to protect from the other team. They cannot hold it but they can guard it. Have the teams go to different sides of the field.
  2. The game will be played similar to capture the flag.
  3. Once a kid has crossed over to the other teams’ side of the field they can be tagged.
  4. If a kid is tagged on the opposite team’s side, they must sit down until someone from their team tags them back in.
  5. The object of the game is to capture the other team’s hashtag and successfully get it to your team’s side of the field to win!
  6. Play multiple rounds if the first one goes quickly.

Outdoor Game 2: Giant Emoji Volleyball

How to Play:

  1. The kids will once again stand in teams on either side of the cones on the field. The cones will act as the “net” for volleyball.
  2. One of the leaders will throw the giant volley ball out to one of the teams and they must hit it over the cones to the other team.
  3. The object of the game is to keep the volleyball in the air and pass it between the two teams.
  4. If a team drops the volleyball on their side, that’s a point for the other team.
  5. Play to 10 points.

Outdoor Game 3: Hashtag Tag

How to Play:

  1. Choose one kid or leader to be it for the first round. Give them a sheet or two of hashtag stickers.
  2. They will tag other kids by successfully sticking a hashtag sticker on them.
  3. Once a kid has been hashtagged they must sit down.
  4. Keep playing until everyone has been hashtagged.
  5. If time, remove all the hashtag stickers and choose someone else to be it for a new round.


The first choice of movies was pretty easy. The Emoji Movie was a perfect fit and had been out for awhile so no one had seen it too recently. For our backup movie, we watched Wreck it Ralph. The new Wreck it Ralph movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet would be perfect for this theme, but it wasn’t out yet. We always try to have two movie options in case the kids don’t go to sleep during the first movie. About half way through the first movie, we have an intermission. We have all the kids throw away their trash, food, cups, etc. and go the restroom, then we resume the movie. For some reason, almost all the kids were still awake after the first movie, so we watched Wreck it Ralph as well.


Dinner: Nacho Bar

For dinner we kept it simple and had a nacho bar. We had big bags of chips, a crockpot of nacho cheese, a crockpot of hormel chili (no beans), salsa, and jalepenos. A lot of the kids ended up just eating the chips so I’m not sure how nutritional it was, but who cares! It’s a lock-in!

Snacks: DIY Emoji Cookies and Popcorn

As one of our indoor activities we gave the kids circle shaped sugar cookies, yellow frosting, and sprinkles to create their own emoji cookies. We gave a prize to the best emoji and I was super impressed by the kids’ creativity. This was also the only pictures I got of any of the food so I apologize for that. We also gave the kids popcorn and capri suns before the movie.

Breakfast: Cereal Bar

Other than the emoji cookies, this was probably the biggest win for food at this event. Kids love sugary cereals! We bought four or five different kinds of fun sugary cereals and regular and chocolate milk. The kids came back for seconds and thirds.

Bonus: Leader food/coffee

Even if it’s not in the budget I always take good care of my leaders at events, especially overnighters. I buy them “adult” dinner and have someone grab everyone their favorite coffee from Starbucks in the morning. Our adult dinner this year was GOOD pizza and wings. They loved it!

Lock-ins are a lot of work, and I’ll be honest, they are completely exhausting. However, they are worth your time if you do them correctly. Kids can form new friendships, grow closer with leaders, learn about God, and have an awesome time. If you are interested, check out some of my other lock-in themes: Super-sized Food Lock-inBlacklight Lock-inReverse Lock-inRoller Disco Lock-in Fear Factor Lock-in

Have you ever attempted a Lock-in with kids? I would love to hear what you have done and what the kids have loved!