escape room group
That’s me in the clown wig.  Photo credit to Breakout Orlando.

Last week I was “locked” in a room along with six family members and four random strangers. We had one hour to solve the puzzles that would give us the code to get the medallion that would unlock the door. You’ll be happy to know that my group made it out with ten minutes to spare!

These types of escape rooms, or breakout rooms, are quite popular these days, and they have all kinds of different themes. Our room was called “The Ringmaster’s Den.” Despite the creepy clown skeleton staring at my husband (see photo), it was pretty tame—balloons, an automated fortune teller, a candy claw machine, puzzles involving songs and animals. I’m not sure what was going on in the zombie room next door, but we heard a lot of screaming. There was also a spy room.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of theme I might use if I were to create my own escape room. I finally hit on the perfect idea: “The Pastor’s Escape from Church After Worship.”

First, you have to calm down an irate organist who is upset that you sang the bluegrass version (meaning guitar-accompanied) rather than the proper version (meaning organ-accompanied) of “Come thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Then you have to make it through several obstacles as quickly as possible in an attempt to reach the church visitors before they get out the door:

  • Clean up a coffee spill
  • Ask about a recent surgery
  • Tell your child to ask her other parent about whatever it is she’s been following you around to ask about for the last ten minutes
  • Lovingly take a hymnal away from a different child (not yours) who is about to use it as a coloring book
  • Explain why you did not attend the recent women’s coffee
  • And . . .

You’re penalized ten minutes if the visitors are gone by the time you get to the sanctuary exit. Which they will be.

oosyTnuNext comes a logic puzzle involving next week’s worship volunteers. The worship leader and child care worker will both be out of town; the pianist is having hand surgery on Thursday and isn’t sure he’ll be fully recovered by Sunday. There are three people who can swap out from later Sundays to fill these three positions, but the three scheduled for next Sunday can’t all serve on the dates that the swaps would open up, so you have to check in with more volunteers who can maybe do next Sunday or the opened up dates but they’re not sure . . . For this task you will need scrap paper, a pencil with an eraser, and plenty of time.

After that is the memory test where twelve different people each give you a task and you have to remember them all and then either do them immediately (fix the running toilet in the women’s bathroom), find someone else to do them immediately (fix the running toilet in the men’s bathroom), write it on your calendar (attend women’s coffee, visit pianist after hand surgery), or make a note—preferably in large print on a neon post-it—to do it when you get to the office next week (call a plumber, find a calmer organist).

Somewhere in there you have to fit in a trip to the snack counter where you scrounge around for crumbs of whatever was being served so you can thank the person who brought snacks and tell them how good it was.

And finally there is the building shut-down:

  • Close blinds
  • Turn off sound system
  • Make sure the snack counter has been wiped down and the dishes are in the dishwasher
  • Wipe down the snack counter and put dishes in the dishwasher
  • Check to see if the guests you didn’t get to talk to left any contact information in the guest book
  • Make sure the toilets aren’t running
  • Turn off the lights
  • Gently tell people who haven’t taken the hints that you are leaving now and the doors will lock behind them when they go

I realize this will be a challenging room. Not many people will make it out within an hour. But the room is not impossible to break out of, and you have a great incentive: once you escape, you get a good meal and a long nap.

Rev. Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS– where they don’t even have an organ and the snack providers always clean up the kitchen. She blogs at

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One thought on “Wits’ Ends Day: Escape Room Challenge

  1. Bwahahaha! In the Episcopal church, we have Vestries, and the Vestry Person of the Day has to lock up and attend the toilets. Oh how I relate to trying to get everything locked up and people OUT at the end of the service! Keep fighting the good fight, and practicing your evasive maneuvers. 😉


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