Chick-fil-a is the restaurant of all restaurants. Creme de la creme. I could eat there three times a day for the rest of my life. Seriously. If I had one final meal, it would be a 12-count of nuggets, waffle fries, two packets of Chick-fil-a sauce, and a frozen lemonade.
And it doesn’t stop with food. Chick-fil-a is on a short list of restaurants where I would rather eat inside than pick up food and eat at home. I feel like a winner when I go in Chick-fil-a. I get rock star treatment. The same treatment my mom gives me when I surprise her by bringing over the grandkids.
This past week, I was in Chick-fil-a putting the final touches on a blog post when it hit me. There are some things the church can learn from Chick-fil-a. I said in a previous post that I try to see Jesus everywhere. Church. Work. Grocery store. Chick-fil-a.
And although God is difficult to see in some environments, he is everywhere when I look at Chick-fil-a. You see, Chick-fil-a has created a culture of excellence. When you see the logo and step into the restaurant you know what you are getting. It is the culture of Chick-fil-a that has made it what it is today. And these cultures aren’t accidents. They don’t magically appear. They are created. Intentionally. And this is what I want to explore.
Here are 5 five things the church can learn from Chick-fil-a.
1.) Establish core values that never change, but create a culture that always changes.
When the rate of external change exceeds the rate of internal change, disaster is imminent.When the late Truett Cathy started Chick-fil-a in 1946, he had three core values: the restaurant will be closed on Sundays, the restaurant will not discount food, and restaurant employees will work with excellence.
Compare the three statements from Cathy in 1946 to Chick-fil-a today. The three core values have not changed. Everything else has. In the nearly 70 years since it opened, Chick-fil-a has added, changed, and tweaked everything. Menu options. Customer experiences. Marketing strategies.
Churches could learn something here. The core values should stay the same. What are they? The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel. Everything outside of the gospel must be subject to change. Programs. Styles of worship. Traditions. Everything.
But this is easier said than done, right? Ever tried to implement a different style of worship or challenge a long-held tradition? The truth is many churches would rather respect traditions than reach the lost. We refuse to embrace change at the expense of being too liberal or too influenced by culture. If Chick-fil-a had the church’s attitude, it would have closed years ago.
And the church should take note. Change isn’t just healthy. It necessary.
2.) Be passionate about your product.
One thing is for sure. Chick-fil-a is passionate about making awesome chicken and making sure every customer has an amazing experience. Chick-fil-a is so passionate about their products, a few years ago they spent $38 million dollars improving the grilled chicken sandwich. $38 million?! On the grilled chicken sandwich? That’s ridiculous!
No. That’s passion.
If the church was as passionate about the gospel as Chick-fil-a was about chicken, the whole world would know Jesus. The truth is many churches are consumed with apathy. And we throw apathy under the banner of control and order. I grew up being told God not only didn’t like expression and passion, but he would send you to hell for it.
I mean, yeah. God saved us. But let’s keep our hands in our pockets and our emotions in check? I understand expression isn’t for everyone, but passion is. Everyone is passionate about something. It’s not that we lack passion. It’s that we are passionate about the wrong things. College football. The latest Apple product. Career.
And the world notices. It’s time the church directed passion properly and allowed people to express it fully. The church has the greatest message in the history of the world. We serve the God above all gods who sent his own son to this world to save us. That gets me fired up.
If Chick-fil-a can be passionate about chicken, why can’t the church be passionate about the gospel?
3.) Don’t try to do everything. Do a few things well.
It’s evident in commercials. And it’s obvious when you look at the menu. Chick-fil-a is concerned about one thing: CHICKEN. That’s it. I’m sure Chick-fil-a has felt the temptation to diversify. But the company has refused to listen to the cultural pressure that says, “As your resources grow, you must offer more.”
Here’s the lesson for the church. When you focus on a few things, you have the potential to do those few things really well. But if you focus on everything, you will do nothing well. Pull up a typical church website and you will see hundreds of ministries. Youth Ministry. College Ministry. Men’s Ministry. Flowers Ministry. I Love Elvis Ministry. I Hate Elvis Ministry. Honestly, it’s ridiculous.
The reason many churches do nothing well is they give in to the temptation to start a new ministry every time someone says they don’t fit in a current one. The church has caved to the cultural pressure to diversify the menu. And this creates churches with tons of menu items, but none are done well. And very few impact lives.
The goal isn’t to blanket the darkness. The goal is to penetrate it. This happens when a lot of energy is focused in a small area and when a lot of people are focused on a few things.
For Chick-fil-a, the focus is chicken. And they do chicken really well. Church, what is your focus?
4.) The experience you create is just as important as the product you sell.
When you walk in Chick-fil-a, they aren’t just trying to sell you chicken. They are trying to sell you an experience. And they sell the experience well. Everything is clean. The employees are always friendly. People come to your table and ask if they can refresh your beverage. Chick-fil-a even goes so far as to make sure the bathrooms are clean. In his book, How Did You Do It Truett?, Truett Cathy says, “Keeping (the restroom) clean doesn’t require special skill, just discipline that comes from being concerned for the customer.”
And Cathy is right. Ever been in a restaurant with dirty restrooms? It’s disgusting. And frustrating.
The experience matters. A lot of people make great chicken. But no one does chicken like Chick-fil-a. No one creates the environment Chick-fil-a creates. Make the same great chicken in a dry, uninviting environment, and what you have is another mediocre restaurant. The church needs to understand this.
What messages are guests receiving when they enter your church? Because here’s the reality about the de-churched and non-Christians. The experience they have at your church will shape their view of God. Is that fair? No. Is it reality? Yes.
And, if churches are honest, the experience often sends the message that God is small, angry, boring, and out of touch with reality. Like if you were to grab coffee with God, he would stare awkwardly at you without saying a word. And he would be wearing suspenders, glasses larger than his face, and pants flooding so bad they could spark a 100-year flood.
Now, we know this isn’t God. He would definitely wear skinny jeans (only kidding). The message outsiders should receive is that God is all-powerful, loves people wherever they are, and empathizes with any problem any person might experience. That’s a message people NEED to hear.
One more thing. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking the sermon is the only message outsiders will receive. The message starts when outsiders enter the door. How they are greeted, whether their kids enjoyed class, and the general attitude of insiders all play into the experience. And the experience sends a message.
What message is your church sending outsiders about God?
5.) The focus must be on customers, not employees.
Cue Elton John. “Cannn…you feelll…the loveee…tonight?” Actually, I can feel the love at night, during lunch, or in the morning. Employees at Chick-fil-a usually ask me how I am doing. I have their full attention when I place my order (which is why they rarely mess it up). I feel loved when I walk in. This seems obvious, but Chick-fil-a is completely focused on customers.
But it’s not always obvious. Ever been to a restaurant where customers weren’t the focus? I went to one last week. I walked in the door and waited 15 minutes to be seated. Not one employee acknowledged me. After 15 minutes, I got up and left. And I probably won’t be back.
What about the church? Many churches are so focused on themselves they don’t even notice non-Christians. Budget concerns. Worship issues. Sound problems. Dry, lifeless sermons. Everything is focused on insiders, not outsiders.
When restaurants don’t focus on customers, they fail. When churches don’t focus on outsiders, they die. Restaurants weren’t created to cater to employees, and churches weren’t created to cater to insiders.
Chick-fil-a gets this. The church should too.
Again, God can be seen everywhere. It is all about the lens you choose to look through. When it comes to Chick-fil-a, there is a lot the church can learn. And followers of Jesus should have a desire to learn and improve.
Maybe I forgot something. In your experience at Chick-fil-a, what is something you believe the church can learn? Leave a comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!