Seven hallmarks of a thriving family culture

Welcome to the second post exploring how to create a thriving family culture this year and beyond. The book “Belonging and Becoming’ by Mark and Lisa Scandrette is the basis for this series. The couple use a brilliant metaphor for thriving families which I find really helpful – that of the majestic Coastal Redwood tree (aka the Sequoia Sempervirens for the tree geeks). ‘Family’ can obviously mean parents with children but also to close networks of friends or wider church groups, and this metaphor applies right across the board.

Apparently, Redwood trees can live for up to 2,200 years, and grow in circles, called faerie rings, as the shoots of new trees sprout up rapidly around a dying parent plant. The way in which Redwoods grow provides a helpful image for what a family needs to thrive. I have paraphrased Mark and Lisa’s words – but for the fully loaded description go get the book -it will not disappoint! Many of the questions posed below are explored throughout the book, so don’t feel discouraged and ready to pack this journey in if they seem a bit daunting!

biggest tree
Receptive. Redwood trees need access to energy beyond themselves – stretching out their branches to receive the nourishment of coastal fog, sunlight and rain.

Similarly families need to be receptive to the light, energy, and love of God, so we can awaken to His vision for our lives, and discover how we’re connected to His big story – asking big questions and encouraging our children to do the same.

What kind of world is this? Why are we here? Who are we?

tree rings

Rooted. If you cut a Redwood open you discover tree rings, a record of time and seasons of growth.

Thriving families are rooted in life giving rhythms for living well together and growing through changing and challenging seasons. What kinds of life giving rhythms can we establish this year which will nurture growth?

tree roots

Connected. Redwood trees grow together in circles connected by interlocking roots that protect them from high winds. The roots are shallow, so the strength comes from strong links with one another.

Similarly thriving families are interdependent, supporting each other through life’s storms and changing landscapes. How can we ensure we interlock with each other and with other families, to connect, communicate, navigate conflicts and strengthen bonds?

Responsive. Redwoods are resilient to threats and responsive to opportunities to grow. For the giant Sequoia, close relative of the Redwood, fire is essential to their reproduction, releasing the seeds from which new life can grow.

Thriving families are committed to helping one another embrace the challenges and stages of life as opportunities to change and grow. What might this practically look like in our everyday life? Can you think of a season of intense pain, challenge or change, which actually resulted in your family life flourishing?


Resourceful. Redwoods are a resourceful and fruitful part of a larger living system. They take only what they need to be sustained and then give back to the forest. Their branches collect moisture from passing fog  and roots absorb nutrients from the surrounding soil, while their canopy provides shelter for birds, insects, and animals, and their fallen leaves nourish the forest creatures.

Thriving families see themselves as part of a larger economy of abundance and interdependence. How can we live sustainably? Which resources can we use more wisely? How can we practice gratitude, trust, generosity and contentment?

Productive. Redwoods constantly invest in the future. New seedlings sprout from roots at the base of a parent plant or fallen tree. One tree can produce 6 million seeds in a single year.

A thriving family celebrates each persons uniqueness and develops the capacities to serve others and pursue the greater good. How can we learn to engage the needs and opportunities of the world this year?

Purposeful. Redwood trees know what their purpose is; it’s encoded in their DNA. The major difference for thriving families is that we have to make intentional choices to embrace a shared purpose.

A thriving family knows what its about. How can we live from a deep sense of purpose and a positive vision of the future that we can articulate and use as as guide for decision making?

Tragically 95% of the first-growth redwood forests of the California coast have been cut down and the rest only thrive because they are protected. For us to create a thriving family culture requires vigilance, and daily tending.

Let’s keep journeying together to explore and share what practical steps we can take to adapt, cultivate, and protect family thriving in our changing landscape this year.

As a first step can we commit to slowing down over the weekend, and taking a closer look at our patterns of action, our thought patterns and the motives that shape how we show up in our family. Scary huh? It takes courage for us to ask hard questions of ourselves such as ‘ Why do I get so angry when the toilet seats are perpetually left up?’

For those of us who have bought the ‘Belonging and Becoming’ Book – our ‘home learning’ could be do sit down and fill out the family thriving self-assessment quiz to identify which areas are already thriving and which maybe require some ‘tending’?

For those who haven’t got the book, simply setting aside time to look at each of the areas above and reflecting on which are thriving and which are wilting will always be time well spent.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that this is about a process of sharing and learning together, not a guilt trip about failing to attain perfection.

Jesus says.’ Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30

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