On Saturday (Halloween) night, I took some students and leaders from my youth group to my home church for a lock-in/all-nighter. The youth pastor there is one of my good friends whom I have known ever since I was in 8th grade. We had been working together to plan this event for a few months and we were both excited that it was finally happening! There were between 50 and 60 students and 10-15 leaders there and we all had a blast!
The lock-in was called “Unmasked ‘09” and was a perfect message for Halloween night. The message that my youth pastor friend brought was not to condemn Halloween but to illustrate the fact that we ALL wear masks to hide who we really are from other people and God! We often get comfortable putting on this façade that we have our lives together and that we are perfect, when in reality, we are not perfect, we don’t have our lives in order, and we are hiding who we really are from God and the rest of the world.
The night began with a video I put together, which included a sweet three-minute countdown, an animated announcement puppet, rules given by the announcement puppet, and a video about all-nighters. After that, everyone played a game of “Deal or No Deal” in the church sanctuary. The announcer for the game was one of my friend’s energetic/crazy youth group members. He dressed up in a Mexican sombrero, a cape, and some strange facial hair (it was actually drawn on with a sharpie)! The kids love it and had a chance to win up to $50. Two of them won prizes: one won $7 and the other won $5. Both of their winnings basically off-set the cost of the lock-in! Needless to say, my friend wasn’t too upset that he didn’t have to give away $50. After the game show, everyone went across the parking lot to the event center, where we would stay for the remainder of the night. For me, the cool thing about being in the event center was that I helped build it two summers ago when I did my internship there! It was awesome to see the finished product of what used to be a big mound of dirt and rocks!
After our arrival at the event center, we had the opening service. The service was entitled, “LOL,” which stands for “Live Out Loud.” It is the service that my friend does every Saturday night and Sunday morning at the church. The service opened with some up-beat/energetic worship led by a high school student who God has gifted with an amazing voice. After worship, we heard from a heavily tattooed man named Tom. Tom was a 50-something year old man who was a drug addict and dealer from the time he was 12-years-old until the year 1991! He told his story of how God continued to save his life over and over again, even when he felt that he was unworthy of living and meant to die. He told stories of getting stopped at customs when trying to re-enter the country with hundreds of pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car, and how he didn’t get caught. He told the story of how he tried to end his life by shooting himself in the chest, and how he lived. And he told the story of how he got busted by the DEA with $70,000 worth of cocaine taped around his stomach and back. God saved him from all of these things and he finally gave his life over to Him. His message was to encourage the kids not to get involved in things that are ungodly, and to teach of God’s grace and mercy. Everyone in the room was silent throughout Tom’s whole testimony. For lack of a better phrase, you could have heard a pin drop in that room!
After Tom was finished speaking, everyone clapped and some gave a standing ovation. Then my friend started praying before he jumped into his message. Throughout the prayer, I was trying to figure out why my friends’ voice was muffled, but I just couldn’t figure it out. At the end of the prayer, I looked up and saw that he was wearing a mask. “Genius,” I thought! He then began to teach from Genesis 3 about the deception that took place in the Garden of Eden. He talked about how Satan deceived Eve and convinced her to disobey God and eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden. He tied this in to the unmasked theme by saying we all deceived ourselves, each other, and God by pretending to be something we are not and hiding behind masks of alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, pride, jealousy, etc…
He ended by telling everyone that there is freedom from the bondage that is created by the masks that we wear, and that freedom’s name is Jesus. He took his mask off and then told the story of salvation and let the kids know that we (the leaders) are there for them if they needed to talk or if they had any questions. It was a powerful message and it inspired me to get more creative with my teaching and to re-think the way I do things in my youth ministry.
For the remainder of the night, we had the option to play basketball, dodge ball, video games, board games, group games, and watch movies. It was a long night. We ended the lock-in with a short LOL service that served as a reminder to the students to keep their masks off and turn to Jesus whenever they feel the need to create one or put one on.
This message/theme for the event got me thinking, and I would like to hear from you. What kinds of masks have you seen students and leaders wear in your youth ministries (or other professions)?