We absolutely love doing lock-ins, but I have to say that my least favorite part of a lock-in is the overnight portion. How do you get all the fun of a lock-in without the overnight part? A Reverse Lock-in is your answer. Basically, it’s just a fancy way of saying a daytime lock-in, but it sounds a lot cooler, doesn’t it? Our kids actually earned this lock-in as a reward for reaching their goal of 101 pounds in change for missions in our Change Challenge. You can read more about that offering contest and other contests we have done with our kids in this blog post. This was our first time doing a Reverse Lock-in so we didn’t know what to expect. I can definitely say it was a huge success, and the kids loved it just as much as our regular overnight lock-ins. Instead of going through the entire schedule, I’m going to focus on the theme, food, and activities/games. If you are interested in a full schedule of our event for planning purposes you can see that here: Reverse Lock-in Schedule.

2017 UPDATE: The kids at my previous church loved this event so much that I decided it was time to bring the idea to the kids at my new church. The kids earned their invitation to the Reverse Lock-in by reaching 250,000 points as a team. All three of the teams made it to the goal, so everyone was invited. We added the incentive that the winning team would be our Reverse Lock-in VIPs. The VIPs were first in line for all of the food and games. They loved it. We did a lot of the same activities since it was a different group of kids, but we had to plan the event for more than double the amount of kids I had the first time around. I will be adding my updates throughout this post for what I did to make the event work for a larger group of kids. For reference, the first time we did the Reverse Lock-in we had about forty kids, and this time we had eighty-five kids. The entire event cost just over $100 this time around because of the affordable food choices. Here is the full updated schedule .



A good theme can make or break your lock-in, so we decided to go with a slumber party theme because we thought it would be fun to pretend like it was night time even though it wasn’t. The kids loved it! We told them to come dressed in pjs, and bring sleeping bags, bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, and anything else they would normally bring to a slumber party. There were lots of stuffed animals! I decided to wear my favorite footy pjs with sock monkeys on them. It was a fun theme because we didn’t need anything since the kids supplied all the “decor”. That was very important since we had no time between the end of 2nd service and the beginning of the lock-in to decorate.

2017 UPDATE: We went with the same theme, but decided to kick it up a notch. We told the kids to come dressed in their PJ’s all day for church and we encouraged them to invite their friends. The event was free to anyone who wanted to attend since it was a reward for their team competition and ended up having a lot of first-time guests.


Free Time Activities:

We needed to keep the kids busy beginning right after 2nd service until we were done getting lunch ready. Towards the end of the 2nd service, we started setting up activities and several leaders went to the kitchen to start lunch. The kids had lot of activities to choose from that could have kept them busy for hours. We put out our video game systems, board games, nail polish, and had karaoke available. We had a couple themed activities available as well. We setup a station where they could make cereal bracelets or necklaces by stringing Honey Nut Cheerios, Chocolate Cheerios, Fruit Loops, and Apple Jacks cereals on baker’s twine we had left over from a set design. We also had this coloring sheet: PJ Printable available for the kids to decorate their own pjs.

2017 UPDATE: We had a lot more kids to feed this time, so I sent several leaders to start making the pancakes during 2nd service so we could get a head start. We offered a lot of the same activities, as well as allowing the kids to go outside to play with a couple leaders. Our room was pretty crowded, so it was necessary to get some of the kids outside to bring down the craziness. It took a lot longer to have the food ready for such a big crowd. We used the point totals from the competition to determine the order in which teams could get their food. We dismissed them in groups with some time between to give the leaders in the kitchen time to cook more pancakes.


Lunch – DIY Pancake Bar:

We wanted to do something for lunch that was breakfast-themed and would be easy and fun for the kids. We don’t have access to a stove onsite, so that complicated things. I asked people in the church to let us borrow their portable pancake griddles, and bought a huge bag of pancake mix from Sam’s Club for $10. We setup a pancake topping bar which included: butter, syrup, gummy bears, mini chocolate chips, banana slices, sprinkles, and whipped cream. If you want to go a little healthier,  you could include more fresh fruit options like blueberries or strawberries. This was an affordable, but fun way to serve 45 kids and 12 leaders lunch.

2017 UPDATE: We went with the same food option since it was affordable and universally yummy. We ended up having four large griddles to cook the pancakes on, but could have used even more. We opted for the family size Krusteaz brand of pancake mix since it only requires you to add water and it doesn’t contain eggs or nuts. We actually used up all of the mix and could have used more to feed the army of children and leaders.


Ice Breaker Game:

This is a great game idea for any event to help kids get to know each one another better or as a transition activity. It is a called a “Get to Know You Ball”. You can do this game with a normal size inflatable beach ball, or you can find the larger ones for about $5 at Wal-mart. First, write lots of silly questions all over the ball (we made two balls since we knew we would have a lot of kids). Then, have the kids stand or sit in a circle and spread out. Pass the ball to anyone in the circle. Whoever catches the ball must answer the question their right hand lands on. Keep going until everyone has gotten to answer a question about themselves, or until the kids get bored. We played this game as a transition from lunch into our more organized activity time, which gave us time to set up for the other games.

2017 UPDATE: We didn’t end up using this game because I knew the group was going to be a lot larger and for time purposes. We had just the right amount of activities without the ice breaker.


Lock-in Tournament:

We decided to make the game time a little more fun and motivating for the kids by turning it into a three-game tournament. We broke the kids up into two teams and had them come up with a team name and chant. For each game their team won they would receive one small candy medal. The team that won the entire tournament would receive the large candy medals during our Tournament Ceremony. The candy medals may have been my favorite part about the whole event. They are so easy to make, and even more fun to wear! All you need is some candy bars (fun size for small medals, normal size for large medals), ribbon, and adhesive. My favorite ribbon was the red, white, and blue striped ribbon that we found, but they didn’t have enough of it for all our medals. My suggestion is to buy the ribbon online if you are making as many as we did. The best adhesives for this project are hot glue (because it dries quickly), or permanent glue dots. We ended up using the permanent glue dots because we ran out of hot glue sticks, and I think they may have actually worked better since they didn’t melt the candy bars.

2017 UPDATE: We broke the kids into four teams for the tournament. We ended up going outside for the opening of the tournament and the first two tournament games so we would have more room. We amped up the team competition by giving each team a colored team flag left over from VBS last year and a piece of foam board for making a team sign. We gave the teams fifteen minutes to come up with a team name, chant, and sign. Once the time was up, each team presented what they had worked on. We gave out points for creativity in each area. We made the candy medals again because they were a huge hit. We only made the large candy medals for the winning team to save some money and time.


Tournament Games:

  • Tournament Game 1: Sleeping Bag Races The object of this game was to race the other team by wiggling down to the cone and back to your team in a sleeping bag. The leaders accomplished this game quite well, but if you have a large group it could take a long time for your kids to finish this game. We decided to make a new rule that leaders could “help” the kids. This turned into the leaders getting a great work-out by dragging/carrying the kids in their sleeping bags back and forth. The kids still loved this game, the leaders, probably not so much!
  • Tournament Game 2: Giant PJ Pillow Case Races For this game, kids have to put on a giant pair of pjs, and run sack-race style in a pillow case down to the cone and back. The kids were much better at this game, although it still took awhile to get through it considering there were more than 20 kids on each team. My suggestion is to break the kids into more teams if you have as many kids as we did to keep the games moving a little faster. This was a fun one to watch. Lots of kids face planted, but they just got right back up!

2017 UPDATE: We ran both of these game simultaneously so two of the teams could face off at each of the games at the same time. When the teams were finished with the first round, we switched them to the other tournament game. The sleeping bag game ended up being too hard for the kids in the grass so we let them just run with the sleeping bag on top of their heads. The pillow race was a huge hit with the kids even though they had to wait a little while to play.


  • Tournament Game 3: Fort Wars We saved the best game for last! This game was based off of all the great memories I had of being a kid and turning the entire living room into a giant fort. We put the teams on opposite sides of the room and gave them blankets, sheets, clothespins, and chairs to work with. They were also allowed to use anything on their side of the room to make their fort. We gave them 15 minutes to make the biggest and best fort using those materials. To make the game more interesting and a little more challenging, we added the rule that they had to fit their entire team inside their fort at the end of the 15 minutes. Both teams accomplished it, and those were some pretty amazing forts!

2017 UPDATE: I was a little concerned about trying to pull off fort wars with four teams crammed into our room, but the kids absolutely loved it, and it totally worked. The leaders even got into it! We added some fun by having a couple characters from our current curriculum series come in to walk around and judge the forts.

At the end of the games, we presented the kids with their candy medals. Many of the kids actually wore them for awhile before just tearing into them. It was adorable.


Popcorn Bar:

We always give our kids popcorn while they watch movies at these events because we have a popcorn machine, but I wanted to spice things up a bit this time, so I came up with a popcorn topping bar. The toppings we provided were mini chocolate chip cookies, mini oreos, cookie dough bites, mike n ikes, mini kit-kat bars, m&ms, sprinkles, and cinnamon. You can really do just about anything for the toppings, just keep it small and tasty. We were going for candies and cookies you might find at the movie theater. The kids ate the popcorn much slower than usual, and fewer of them asked for seconds.

We wrapped up the lock-in by watching Despicable Me in our sleeping bags while eating our popcorn. When the movie was over, we told the kids that if they picked up the most trash they would receive extra candy medals. It worked like a charm!

2017 UPDATE: We don’t have a popcorn machine at our current church, but we were fortunate enough to receive four big bags of Costco popcorn  from another event at the church. It was definitely worth the convenience of not having to pop your own popcorn and clean up the mess. We also kept the toppings minimal by using several types of chocolate chips, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, butter topping, and various popcorn powder toppings. We basically just used what we already had on hand, and the kids still loved it. We had just enough time to watch Big Hero 6 cuddled up on the floor.

If you have never done a lock-in with your kids before, I would definitely encourage you to start with a Reverse Lock-in. We crammed all this fun into four and a half hours, and we didn’t even have to sleep on the floor.