YPM’s Signature Approach ~ Small Groups.
Why Small Groups? — It’s biblical!!! Jesus focused most of His ministry on small group leadership, spending the majority of His time with the twelve disciples while never neglecting the crowds and other disciples. Jesus Christ’s small group approach and the impact his disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, subsequently had upon human history is good reason to employ small groups to bring about Christlike behavior and attitude in others. And, Christ promised us that he would join us!
“For where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.”
— Matthew 18:20
YPM Small Group Definition — 3-10 inmates or returning citizens who voluntarily meet weekly for 1-2 hours, who are led by 1-2 YPM volunteers, and who have the shared goal of changing their lives through commitment to Christ, discipline in daily life, spiritual fellowship with one another, and ministry in and to the world.
Especially in Prison — Small groups can be even more effective among prisoners than among ordinary citizens. Prison life is a dismal existence. The inmate is stripped of identity and life becomes a wearisome routine. Fear, guilt, hostility and other grim prison “ghosts” haunt the prisoner’s every waking hour. There is no privacy and inmates live in close quarters with other inmates who have emotional, spiritual and social problems, sometimes sharing 8′ x 8′ cells. Inmates desiring a new life in Christ face continual ridicule of other inmates and have difficulty maintaining their conscious Christian discipleship. In a YPM small group, inmates desiring to change share their “common predicament, common penitence, and common faith,” and in return are encouraged in their Christian walk and experience a new kind of “agape” love.
A Place to Learn — In small groups, participants learn to:
- “…be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Romans 12:2
- “Be devoted…. and give preference to one another.” Romans 12:10
- “Accept one another.” Romans 15:7
- “Love one another.” 1 John 4:11
- “Encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Thess 5:11
- “…speaking the truth in love….the whole body….grows and builds itself up in love.” Eph 4:15-16
- “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently..” Gal 6:1
- “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
- ….. and much, much, more!
The Basic Elements of the Yokefellows small group are:
prayer ~ worship ~ fellowship ~ guided discussion ~ sharing
All these work together to provide a redemptive fellowship through which persons may be led into the liberation of the Christian way of life amid bleak surroundings. An atmosphere is created in which participants can find the love and support of others who support their individual efforts to live the good life in the midst of a cold and alien environment.
Two Journeys — Yokefellow volunteers are to walk along side those who are participating in our small groups as they experience two simultaneous journeys. One is the inner journey where they learn about their true selves and their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The other is the journey where they are developing positive relationships with each other and the volunteers and are learning how to live a life of self-discipline.
Guided Discussions — A Yokefellow small group may use endless topics and media to initiate dialogue. But regardless of the topic and means of communications, the facilitator needs to focus discussions on discovering God’s Word as it directly applies to participants’ lives. The focus needs to be in three areas, commonly known as the three dimensions, or “essence” of Yokefellows.
Sharing — Participants have the opportunity to share their experiences and thinking in an ongoing redemptive fellowship and are encouraged and taught how to live disciplined lives. In an atmosphere of love and confidentiality, volunteers share the Word of God directly applicable to the topic at hand and can also share their own life experiences that demonstrate the transforming power of God’s Word. When sharing, it is important that everyone is sensitve to the painful needs of each other.