I’ve been a homeschool mom for many years, and as such, I’ve done a lot of evaluations with my children. Just like many of you, I wanted to know if my children were getting their work done; if they were truly learning the material; if they were progressing in such a way that I could tell they will be prepared for the next stage of their lives; and so on.
The older my children got and the longer I homeschooled, the more my evaluations shifted from being primarily focused on their academic schoolwork to becoming more focused on character, work ethic, tender heart, etc. that is indicative of one who is mature in Christ (You might have heard us call these the homeschool subjects.)
I needed to shift my gauge of success—or my “rubric” for measuring how my children were growing. (I’ve included a link to a printable version of that rubric below.)
I began to realize that I needed to be as watchful and intentional in gauging how my children were growing spiritually as I was academically.
Through his instruction to Timothy, the Apostle Paul gave us an example of the traits and outcomes we should be looking for in our children. He even gave us a good “rubric” on which to evaluate the growth of our children, which was a huge encouragement to me when I first saw it.
Paul, who had met Timothy when he was quite young, became like a spiritual father to Timothy, and throughout many of his letters, we see Paul’s discipleship of his spiritual son.
As Paul was preparing to pass off the scene, he reached out to Timothy one last time in the letter of Second Timothy. He seems to have been concerned that Timothy’s faith might be shaken, and we see Paul acting very much like a parent concerned for his child in the way he approaches his younger friend.
Throughout the letter, Paul gives us an idea of what to look for to know that our discipleship efforts are being blessed, and that our children are being sharpened to the point that they are becoming fit for the Master’s service. It has encouraged my heart through the years as I’ve been more aware of how God was working in their lives because I was looking for it more.
☑️. They will hold fast to the teaching they have been given. (2 Timothy 1:13)
As our children get older, they start making more and more decisions on their own. They form their own belief system. They become the man or woman it’s in their heart to become. So, we should be watching for signs that they are holding fast to what we have taught them. What’s in their heart will always spill out and become visible.
☑️. They will stand strong. (2 Timothy 2)
Paul gives Timothy the exact same exhortation King David gave Solomon as he was about to die. Be strong and show yourself a man. (I Kings 2:2) These dads had spent their lives teaching their sons God’s ways, His commandments, and His statutes, and modeling God’s heart for them. Now it was time for them to step up, stand strong, and continue the cycle. Timothy and Solomon were instructed in how they should continue to walk in truth with their whole heart, just as David and Paul had learned years before.
☑️. They will endeavor to please God. (2 Timothy 2: 15)
Timothy is reminded to diligently work to present himself as a genuine believer before God. The word he uses that is translated “approved” presented an incredibly practical illustration in Paul’s day. You see, in that time, they didn’t have a banking system akin to what we have now, nor did they have paper money. Instead, they would take the metals they used in their coins and pour them into molds to make the currency of trade. Once that molded metal cooled, it had to be shaved to make it usable, and many dishonest men would shave it so closely that it removed far too much of the metal. The honorable money changers would only put the coins into circulation which were genuine and of full weight. Thus, those men became known as “dokimos” or “approved.”
What Paul was telling Timothy was not to cut corners and shave off pieces of his training to try to make his life easier, No. He was to show himself to be genuine, fully valuable, and approved unto God.
☑️. They will make choices that show that they want to be used by God. (2 Timothy 2:20-26)
Next, Paul talks to Timothy about different ways he can live out his faith, how he can show others Whose he is by the way he lives his life. Just as we’ve told our children through the years, you can tell what is in one’s heart by their actions and choices they make. So, we can have a good gauge of our children’s heart for the Lord by the way they choose to live their lives.
Paul goes on to tell Timothy how he can become a vessel of high value, made holy and useful for the Master, and prepared for every good work. Isn’t that what you want to see in your children as well?
☑️. They will continue in what they have learned and seen in us. (2 Timothy 3)
After laying out a long list of the evils Timothy could expect to encounter, Paul reminds Timothy in v. 10 that he knows his doctrine. Timothy had seen Paul live the truth out in from of him, modeling a life filled with purpose, patience, faith, love, and longsuffering. Timothy must now continue in what he had learned. That is the logical next step. It has been imprinted on him through years of sharpening and example.
As our children grow and start leaving the home, our discipleship of them does not end. Quite the contrary! We have but laid the foundation for them to build on, but they will still need the mentorship of their parents and other godly influences to help them continue to grow.
☑️. They will start to Teach Them Diligently. (2 Timothy 4)
“Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove; rebuke; exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (v 2) Through his teaching and discipleship, Paul now sees his son ready to take up the mantle and teach others diligently. He charges him to be a herald of the good news. Tell everyone who will listen—all the time! When it’s hard and when it’s easy; when you want to and when you don’t—teach them all diligently!
Ultimately, we will know that our discipleship efforts are working when we look at our children and know they are now ready to go out and make disciples of their own. The Great Commission will take root in them, and they will be fully prepared to parent and lead others on their own.
These evidences of growth are progressive, and as a parent you want to look for manifestations of these in age-appropriate ways.
You’ll first see them taking to heart the things that they have been taught. They build habits like having their devotions, talking about things and having an appetite for the things of the Lord that are indicative that they are holding fast to the teaching they have been given.
Next, you’ll see them start standing strong. In our culture, our children are called upon to draw lines in the sand even earlier than we were growing up. When you start seeing your children stand strong rather than give in to the temptations and peer pressure around them, you’ll know God is at work.
Endeavoring to please God and making choices that ensure they will be usable to God go hand in hand, and we start to see those things developing in them as they start enjoying more freedoms in their teen years. At that point, our children will start seeking God on their own and ordering their lives His way. What they allow into their hearts and lives and what they don’t at this point will give us insight into what they love, and how devoted they are to what they have learned from us.
It is once they leave our nest that we can start to see them continuing in what they’ve learned. By then, though, we’ve had plenty of opportunities as we are watching these other proofs develop or not develop in them to intervene when necessary. By praying for them and talking with them each step of the way, we will, by God’s grace, see them growing in grace and continuing in what they’ve learned even as they head out on their own to college or whatever God has ordained for the next step of their lives.
Finally, we all long for the day when we will see our own children pouring into others what they have learned from us. How humbling of an experience to know that God used YOU, the parent of that child, to prepare him or her to serve Him. God chose YOU through the influence you had on that child to reach so many others. I can think of no greater blessing or more hopeful promise than that.
When I started looking at my kids growth based on what Paul was looking for in Timothy, I found my anxiety lessened and my heart rejoiced. I hope you you do as well! Click here to download a reminder rubric that you can keep close by to help you remember things to be looking for.