Do you know the parts of The Culture Tree?

Sep 21, 2023 | 0 comments

“Do you like yellow?”

I was busy hosting a group of people and was distracted, so I missed that this question from my local friend wasn’t about color. It was about a gift she was going to give me. Even though this interaction did not occur in my first or second or tenth year, I blew it. Try a much higher number and you’ll understand my discomfort in sharing this with you.

As we highlight culture this month, we’re bringing all of Mark Hedinger’s posts about culture together. He uses the analogy of culture being like a tree. Whether you’re new to a culture or in a “much higher number,” these articles are for you. Read them, discuss them as a team, and enjoy that as my friend Joann says, “there’s always another peanut in the dish.”

The Culture Tree Series by Mark Hedinger

The Culture Tree: Consider the Roots: The visible parts—the parts that are above ground—seem to be the most important. But did you know that on average, 28% of a tree is below ground? It is invisible! Yet it is also massive in size, it holds the tree stable, and it provides nourishment and water for all that visible part of the tree. Those roots that hold and nourish also grow. As the top gets bigger and more complex, so do the roots. 

The Roots of the Culture Tree Go Deep: Let me give three questions to help to identify the invisible roots of a culture.

The Culture Tree: Where Are You Planted?: To put it simply, the cultural patterns of a people are strongly influenced by the environment where they live. The physical world shapes the patterns of life. Environment impacts culture. We teach three key ideas to help you be self-directed in deliberately learning how environment affects the cultural patterns of a people.

Three Tips for Learning History: In simple terms, the history of a people shapes their culture. People understand today in light of what happened to them yesterday. The interaction between history and culture is not always pleasant; culture is shaped by wars, invasions, epidemics, and injustices. In this article, we share three action steps to help you understand today in light of the history of the people you are living among.

Organizational Patterns Across Cultures: The way people organize themselves in my homeland looks a lot like a hardwood tree with small branches coming off a central trunk. But there are other ways that people organize themselves! Cultures vary in how they organize so that many people can work together.  

Where Culture Meets Tall Trees: Here is a quick fact about trees: no matter how tall or short a tree might be, it needs a way to get water to every single cell in that plant. Cultures meet Tall Trees when we understand the value and importance of that “from one cell to another” network. 

The Work of Trees and Cultures: It is work for the trees to grow into stately, majestic, peaceful strength. It is the work of green pigments in the leaves that gives that deep beauty as the sun filters through the forest canopy. There are cultural preferences in the kind of work that is emphasized and valued…other cultures appreciate a different outcome to work. They emphasize meeting human needs.

Toxins and Nutrients of the Culture Tree: What is a nutrient in one culture may be toxic in another! The patterns of what makes for healthy or unhealthy interactions vary from one culture to another. This article contains three ideas for how to use this idea.

The Culture Tree: Seasons: There is one last truth about trees for us to think about—trees not only grow from small to big and from young to old, but trees grow through seasons of the year, too. There is an ebb and flow to many kinds of trees—a pattern of seasons of life.

“For several months, we have built the Culture Tree together – looking at cultures as living things that grow over time. The image of a tree lets us talk about the invisible culture (roots in our model), and tie that into the visible trunk, branches, leaves and fruit.”

Thank you Mark for this fantastic series!

Looking for training material to use with people new to the field?

Feeling a bit stale and needing some fresh ideas to connect with the culture?

This is just what you’re looking for!

Grow Your Culture Knowledge will help you experience a culture growth spurt! With tracks for newbies and old hands in a culture, you will grow in 4 areas: history, the arts, pop culture, and religion. It includes short weekly videos to help you get the most out of this challenge. Get started with your growth spurt today!

Purchase Grow Your Culture Knowledge here.

Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Supporting cross-cultural work.




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