Today, on my way to Dayton, Ohio from Hazard I was blessed to drive through a Chick-fil-a in Georgetown, Ky on route. A really good fast food chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-a is now a treat for me when I'm out of town. I enjoyed the sandwich, once I took the pickles off. Don't care much for pickles. But as I got back on I-75 North, eating, driving, and listening to election day coverage on the radio, I began thinking about the consistent experience I have at Chick-fil-a without fail no matter which store I visit.
I can't remember a single instance in which I didn't leave a Chick-fil-a without a gratifying experience. From the food, to the service, to the feel, it's always good. Always! I don't believe I could say that about any other business that I've frequented enough to notice.
As a pastor, this got me to thinking about what my church could learn from such a well functioning organization. I though of three things that stood out to me. Here is what my church could learn from Chick-fil-a:
1. Be committed to serving
Without exception, when I go into a Chick-fil-a or even through the drive through, I'm treated with more politeness, courtesy and thoughtfulness than anywhere else I've been that day. The place oozes with kindness. It's actually really weird in a good way. I could almost understand this in a single store where a local manager works hard and picking out good employees and just dares them to treat a customer badly. However, I've been in Chick-fil-a's in multiple states and they all make you feel like you've walked into an etiquette show room. The organization has created a culture of service and from my point of view it's not a feigned politeness. Every time I hear the words "my pleasure" I feel like it's a sincere statement. Even though they are taking my money in exchange for the sandwich, they always make me feel appreciated and not taken for granted. They communicate to me that I am the reason they are doing what they're doing. They convince me through kindness and courtesy that they really do want me to enjoy my sandwich and have a great day. I think there is something here my church could learn.
2. Be focused on executing service with excellence
If just being nice wasn't enough, every Chick-fil-a establishment that I've been in is a clean and orderly environment, efficient, and delivers a consistently good product. Employees are never standing around while a table or floor is dirty or customers are waiting. The service they provide is obviously the product of some great training, which reflects a real commitment to excellence. You just don't get that high level of consistent quality by luck or wishful thinking or good intentions. I think there is something here my church could learn.
3. Be unafraid to put conviction above the bottom line
I used to live in the South where you didn't have to drive far to find a Chick-fil-a. More than once I drove the family to eat lunch after church on a Sunday afternoon to our favorite chicken sandwich place only to be reminded that they weren't open. After experiencing that moment of devastation, I reminded myself that this was one of the reasons I like to support their business.
Being closed on Sundays is surely an oddity to most Americans. However, for Chick-fil-a it is a matter of conviction. They want their employees to be free to worship and have a day of rest. Could they increase the bottom line if they were open on Sunday? Absolutely! I and many others would gladly help them! But obviously this organization is about more than the bottom line. Of course, they are in business to make money, but making as much money as possible doesn't seem to be the goal.
This year Chick-fil-a suddenly found themselves caught up in a sensational controversy about homosexuality. President Dan Cathy made a statement in an interview that he supported the promotion of "biblical families." The context of his statement was actually about divorce in our country not homosexuality. However, those within the reactive gay community went crazy! You would have thought Cathy had walked up to a gay guy and punched him. However, Cathy and the organization stood by his comments. They were also criticized that the organizations they made charitable contributions to were not gay friendly as well. Again, Chick-fil-a stood by it's convictions and did not succumb to the pressure. In an amazing outpouring of support, Chick-fil-a patrons turned out in record numbers to support the franchise. I'm not sure that I had ever seen anything like it before. People like it when you have clear convictions and stand boldly for what you believe. You'll always have opposers and haters, but everyone knows where you stand. And those who share your views will support you. I think there is something here my church could learn.
Service, excellence, and conviction. I think these ought to be applied to a mission that's a whole lot more important than feeding people chicken sandwiches.