Teaching Self-Discipline

It is Yokefellows’s primary goal to teach self-discipline as well as and through seven spiritual disciplines. Self-discipline is the essence of a successful prison ministry and many institutions have opened their doors to Yokefellowship just for that reason. They know the value self-discipline has on life on the inside and outside.

Inmate studying the Word

Self-Discipline — In order to start making good decisions, self-discipline is absolutely critical, especially for those going from an environment where they make few decisions to an environment where they may sometimes have to make decisions on almost a minute-by-minute basis.

It is important to distinguish between imposed discipline and self-discipline. Imposed discipline is all about structures, controls, and limitations. Imposed discipline has its value, but it is really the self-discipline that has intense value in our lives. Because prison is already a highly structured place, inmates tend to resist discipline when it come to religious matters.

Without structure, controls and limitations, life becomes distorted and unbalanced. Only discipline permits the spiritual nurturing that transforms people. Meditation, prayer, study and worship become superficial or nonexistent activities when there is no time allotted for them. Inmates need to know that discipline is essential for all aspects of life, including their spirituality.”
—Rev. Henry Covert, Ministry to the Incarcerated (recommended reading)

Spiritual-Disciplines — Yokefellow volunteers use the “Yokefellows Seven Spiritual Disciplines” to teach and demonstrate self-discipline. There is no better lesson plan than the one God wrote in his book.

  • The Discipline of Prayer – To pray everyday, preferably at the beginning of the day. (Luke 18:1)
  • The Discipline of Scripture – To read reverently and thoughtfully, every day, a portion of Scripture, following a definite plan. (John 8:31,32)
  • The Discipline of Worship – To share, at least once each week, in the public worship of God. (Hebrews 12:28)
  • The Discipline of Money – To give a definite portion of my annual income to the promotion of Christ’s Cause. (Malachi 3:8-10)
  • The Discipline of Time – To use time as a sacred gift, not to be wasted, striving to make daily work, whatever it may be, a Christian vocation. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
  • The Discipline of Service – To try every day to lift some human burden. (3 John 1:5-6)
  • The Discipline of Study – To develop mental powers by careful reading and study. (2 Timothy 2:15)

No discipline is considered more important than
any other and in many ways they are interrelated. However, as you begin to practice the disciplined life,
attempting to implement all at once may be too difficult. Beginning by working on one or two disciplines, may be
more practical. As you master one or two, another discipline may be implemented.

An excellent study on the spiritual disciplines was written by Nancy Sickler, longtime YPM volunteer and former YPM Chairperson. The study has multiple scripture references for each discipline, as well as discussion questions and excerpts from Dr. Elton Trueblood’s books on the same topic: Study & Discussion Guide for Yokefellow Spiritual Disciplines.