Several parishes encourage youth participation during Holy Friday Vigil - including scripture reading, singing of hymns, and overnight activities. A brochure from TEEN SOYO is available to aid in organizing this event:
Erica Ameen is the director of Sunday School and assistant director of SOYO for St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Sioux City, Iowa. She writes about the Holy Friday Vigil and Lock-In at her parish:
We are a smaller parish, so we have changed things a bit for our vigil from what was done in the past. We do a half night lock in, starting right after the 7:00 PM service Friday night, and we go until midnight. This is open to anyone age 12 and up. To get prepared for the night, I first hang a sign in the church hall asking adult parishioners to sign up for reading times, especially in the first hour of the lock in. The kids give us their food requests, because let's be honest, they have to have all the food. Really, that's as much as we do for prep anymore; if there are new kids that will be attending the lock in for the first time, then we will share about Mary Magdalene and Virgin Mary sitting watch over Christ's tomb, and why we do it today.
We have two goals in doing the lock in: to sit vigil over Christ's tomb (and really prepare our hearts to understand the full reality of Christ's sacrifice for us), and then to strengthen the friendships between our kids. Our students are spread out within multiple schools in the area, and we want to really promote being friends outside of church and Sunday School, and that has happened in a huge way since we started doing the lock in a few years ago.
Our night runs a little like this-
After service we all meet downstairs. While we are setting up, adult members of the church start the readings and keeping vigil.The first thing we do is get everyone signed up for reading times. The kids sign up in pairs for 30-minute time slots. While they are taking turns keeping vigil, we have games going downstairs in the church hall. We have done a variety of games: Left Right Center with dice, Ten-Zee, Popcorn Olympics, Minute To Win It games. Last year, a random game of musical chairs broke out, completely unplanned and totally hilarious to watch. What is really awesome is watching the teens start to relax around each other, and really get to know each other. Someone is always keeping an eye on the clock, and each pair is ready to go up and start their turn to keep vigil. When they are upstairs in the sanctuary, it is their choice how they spend their time. They do go up together, but it is meant to be a personal growth time. Some take turns reading Psalms, some read various prayers, sometimes one will read from the Bible and the other will pray silently. All of them seem to leave the sanctuary with a better understanding of the sacrifice.
There will be times that we have time slots open towards the end of the night, and we are never short of volunteers to go back up. What is really awesome is that by that point, as we have been playing games and hanging out together, the kids will pair up with someone completely different than their original partner.
For me, the last hour of the Vigil is the most important. As I mentioned before, our kids go to a variety of schools in the area, however it seems that they are all dealing with the same situations in school. Peer pressures, school and home pressures, all sorts of things that maybe don't seem to be such a big deal to adults, but we have to remember that is their life and what they are living. For the last hour of the night, my parent volunteers keep vigil over Christ's tomb while I take all the kids to the teen room for conversation. With the parents not around, the kids seem to open up a little more. During this time, I usually have some conversation starters ready to go, just from what I have seen and heard from the kids in the previous months. (Every Sunday we end Sunday School by praying all together. The kids all get a piece of paper to write prayer requests down, without leaving their names. The teachers of course know by handwriting who has written what, but the things we have learned doing this have been amazing, and that is usually how I get my conversation starters). For the last hour, I listen to these teens support each other, understand each other, give each other advice. I see the older teens helping the younger teens to know it will get better, or this is how I handled a situation just like that. I watch as the kids share their fears, and their accomplishments, and most of all I watch the love of Christ pour out to one another. The playing games at the beginning of the night is always fun, but really its just an ice breaker so that when we get to this point, they are comfortable to be open and honest with each other.
As far as safety is concerned, as soon as everyone has left the 7PM service, all doors are locked in the church. Anybody that would need into the church has to call my phone. We ask the kids leave their phones in coats so we don't have that as a distraction, and parents who aren't volunteering have my number in case of emergency. Boys are girls are not left alone together without a third party, unless siblings are reading together. There is always an adult present with kids.