Chick-fil-A: What Your Church Can Learn II

Chick fil A: What Your Church Can Learn – Part II

What can your local church learn from a chicken store? Apparently, in the case of Chick-fil-A, quite a bit. I thought I was done with this story, but obviously there’s still meat on the bones! (I know. I couldn’t stop myself.)

It seems that there’s no middle ground when Chick-fil-A comes up. People either love them or hate them. And the issue is not the food, which receives consistently great reviews. The issue is the statements that they’ve made about traditional values. The management’s understanding of marriage being between a man and woman, is not exactly winning them friends today. And the fact that they’ve decided to close on Sundays has made them even more controversial.

But whether you agree with them or not, their success in the market and popular culture can’t be argued. They are the most successful fast food restaurant in America by a long shot. They make more sales per store in 6 days than the others do in 7. So, what are they doing?

It begins with the founder, S. Truett Cathy. Last week I wrote of his challenge to the Chick-fil-A board of trustees who were obsessing over getting “ bigger-faster!” His response to them was good advice for his business and even better advice for the local church.  He said, “I am sick and tired of you talking about getting bigger.  What we need to be talking about is getting better! If we get better, our customers will demand that we get bigger!”

I love it! Church ministries and church growth is what I do. I love bigger! But quantity without quality is a disaster in the making. Bringing new believers into some of our churches is like bringing babies into a nasty nursery. They won’t be there long.

But what more can we learn from Chick-fil-A? Let’s begin with the “Core Four” counsel that they give to all employees:

  • Make eye contact– That works at a chicken store or at church. People who make eye contact are usually seen as more reliable, warm, and sociable.
  • Smile – Enough said.
  • Speak enthusiastically – Often it’s not what you say but how you say it. Enthusiastic communication is persuasive communication.
  • Stay connected – Chick-fil-A encourages their sales force to establish relationships with customers. The founder of the church encourages the same.

Great advice. But the core four are only extensions of the 5 Core Values of Chick-fil-A. Here we pick up the key to their success and the best lessons for the local church.

Core Value Number One: Customers First

This is the foundation of good customer service. The customer might not always be right, but the customer is always first. Think of the visitors who leave local churches complaining that no one spoke to them or greeted them. It’s cliché, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

I remember being introduced to a local church when my family was young. While I was in the office with the conference president, preparing to come out, my wife had taken a seat with our babies. A long-time member came down the aisle prepared to sit in her usual seat, only to find my wife and kids “innocently” sitting in her seat.

Two people got embarrassed that day. My wife, when the lady told her that my family was in her seat. And the lady when she later realized that I was the new pastor…and the intruder was the new pastor’s wife….and the kids were the new pastor’s babies! Incidentally, my wife waited for over a year to tell me that story, because I get mad to this day when I think about it!

Core Value Number Two: Personal Excellence

Christians should be recognized for the quality of their work. This should be the case at church, but most importantly, at the workplace. The greatest witness to the power of Christianity in the workplace is an excellent Christian worker. Christians don’t go to work to proselytize or to witness, but they go to work…to work! The excellence of their work should reflect the excellence of their God.

Paul put it this way, “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord and not for human masters; since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Core Value Number Three: Continuous Improvement

Chick-fil-A calls it continuous improvement, the church calls it sanctification or Christian maturity. In the Christian life, we are either going forward or backward, but we’re always moving. Ellen White reminds us of how important continuous improvement is:

“Our first responsibility toward God and our fellow beings is that of self-development.”

Temperance pg. 137

Core Value Number Four: Working Together

Resources are wasted and talent is squandered when church members don’t work together. In some churches, especially churches of size, the ministries and departments seem to operate as silos. Competition for resources and spots for “special days” can be fierce. Of course, this is a reflection of how little the members understand and own the primary mission of the church.

The church has been uniquely gifted for growth. Ephesians 4:11-16 states that each Christian has at least one gift and when those gifts operate together we are no longer children influenced by every shiny fad or face, but we grow into mature believers. This only happens when the church works together. Chick-fil-A is on point again.

Core Value Number Five: Stewardship

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.” That is the corporate purpose of Chick-fil-A. It should be the stewardship statement of every Christian.

That’s it. For sure, churches and for-profit businesses are not the same. There are significant differences in mission, compensation, administration, and motivation. But there are certain things that the church just ought to do better than a chicken store!

What do you think?