The JENGA Staffing Principle
By Dan Reiland
I like to play JENGAÂ®. This nerve-racking game requires concentration and a steady hand. The object is to remove one of the 54 wooden blocks from the lower portion of a tower and then add it to the top of the tower as each player tries to build an increasingly higher tower of blocks without it falling.
The box says: “Balance the wooden blocks. Stack up the stories. Don’t let the tower fall.”
The detailed instructions on the box are:
1. “Carefully remove one block from any level. Use a steady hand to stack it on top.
2. “Continue to remove and stack blocks to build the tower taller and taller … and shakier.
3. “How tall is too tall? You’ll find out when the tower falls.”
It struck me that playing JENGA is like building a staff; however, there are more instructions on the JENGA box than I received in seminary. First, a disclaimer: This illustration has its limitations because staff members are not like wooden blocks.
If you lead a staff you are required to balance the blocks, adding more as your church grows, and pray the whole thing does not come crashing down.
For example, every time a staff member leaves, a block is extracted from your tower. Note that step 1 in the directions says carefully. Then, using a steady hand, stack it on top — move it somewhere else. Most often this means the staff member is added to another pastor’s JENGA stack in his church. In JENGA, with each move you make, more beads of sweat collect on your forehead because the tower is taller; you have more invested; and, if it falls, it is a mess.
Step 2 is continue. The process never ends. Even if your last move resulted in a close call or the tower is becoming extremely shaky, you continue to make changes until you either quit the game or the tower comes crashing down.
Finally, step 3 asks: “How tall is too tall?” Hasbro does not answer this question. No strategy plans are given on the box, and there is no 800 number to call for help. Players must keep playing. If the tower falls, you did something wrong.
In making staff transitions, the pastor is moving the blocks. If he wonders if he is taking a risk, he is. Every time a pastor removes or adds a block, the tower is not just one block different; it becomes an entirely different organization of blocks and must be treated accordingly.
For example, removing a block that is part of the foundation — one that has been there since the beginning — will have greater impact than if a recently added block is moved. I have often looked at my staff configuration and wondered if the next move I make will cause a crash or build a tower people admire.
If you want to get the emotion and intensity of this idea, play JENGA and think about a complicated staff transition.
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