General Interest

14 Things Every Church Can Learn from Chick-fil-A

By May 23, 2017 No Comments

One of the things we’ve enjoyed doing over our 30+ years of working with leading edge churches is exposing leaders to interesting and innovative organizations from other sectors of society.  These experiences have led to some incredible “aha” moments and strategic or organizational breakthroughs for the churches we serve.

One of the organizations that continues to pour into our leaders through the various experiences we facilitate is Chick-fil-A.  The following is a summary of principles from stories and articles that every church should be reminded of.

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1. A simple mission can change everything.

Truett Cathy didn’t set out to revolutionize anything. He set out to do one thing really well, and is credited with inventing “the boneless chicken sandwich”

2. Always choose quality over quantity.

When Chick-fil-A joined the breakfast crowd in 1986, they added just one thing: The Chicken Biscuit.

3. Making lemons out of lemonade is a great skill.

Chick-fil-A is the largest buyer of Sunkist Lemons, squeezing well over 200 million lemons a year to make their famous in-house lemonade.

4. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

The Chick-fil-A sauce we all love so much is actually a mix of three condiments: Barbecue, ranch and honey mustard.

5. Change can be good. In fact, change can spark a movement.

In 2004, in response to requests for more healthy options, they added fresh fruit cups as a side option, and all major fast-food chains quickly followed suit.

6. Consistency matters.

The chicken recipe hasn’t changed for over 50 years, and people always know what to expect.

7. Do everything with intentionality.

Nothing happens by accident at this organization. The “A” in Chick-fil-A is capitalized for a reason. It represents a commitment to “Grade A” service

8. A good hiring practice is essential.

They know it’s ok to wait for the right people on your team. 20,000 people per year apply for a franchise each year, but only 70 are accepted. They only recruit people who identify with their mission, and they have a proven and reproducible talent selection process.

9. Generosity is important.

As examples of “servant leadership”, both executives and franchise will always take the last place in line. They also give millions to education and charities.

10. Failures are learning opportunities.

When the Chick-fil-A team set out to make the “perfect grill”, it took them 11 years and countless prototypes before they got it right.

11. A clarified vision is essential.

The Chick-fil-A mission statement is clear and drives their entire organization from the executives to the franchise employees.

12. Telling the truth helps build a culture of trust.

Chick-fil-A values truth-telling in a respectful, discerning way. This goes a long way in helping all employees and franchise owner morale and creates a culture of trust.

13. Good (and bad) leadership trickles down.

The servant leadership adopted by current management is mirrored by everyone in the organization. It’s in the trademark phrase franchise employees repeat (“It’s my pleasure,”), and the way employees spring into action if a customer needs help.

14. Culture is the soul of an organization.

There’s an entire book dedicated to the culture of leadership at Chick-fil-A. The Chick-fil-A story proves that when we set out to create something bigger than ourselves, we can create an enduring culture.

Chick-fil-A provides mom valet services, mouthwash dispensers in the restroom, offer to refill your drinks, pass out hand wipes to diners, and there’s their trademark phrase “It’s my pleasure.” These unexpected amenities have created a dedicated following and even sparked a story movement called “unexpected pleasures” on the company website.

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Ideas and principles are great, but where we’ve seen real change happen is when leaders and teams have the opportunity to sit in the room with these organizations, collaborate with other expert thinkers and experienced “doers,” and translate principles into high-impact plans.  Sound like something you or your church needs?  Learn more about our Leader Groups here: Next Generation Pastors Leader Group and Executive Pastor Leader Group.

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Tim Nations

Author Tim Nations

Tim Nations serves as the Director of Facilitation and Leadership Community Director at Leadership Network. He has been a Lead Facilitator for various Leadership Community meetings and InnovationLabs since 2006. Tim has served in full-time ministry in churches across the north Texas area for over 15 years.

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