What Chick-Fil-A Taught Me About Youth Ministry

June 25, 2018     Keith Parker    

Chick Fil A

A few years ago, I loaded up my three crazy boys and headed to lunch at Chick-Fil-A. I don’t know about you, but I could probably eat this delectable delight every single day and not get tired of it. I can totally relate to Tim Hawkins in this video.


As my boys made their way into the playground, I took a few moments to take in the scene around me, and I was amazed at what I saw. Among the people laughing, the sound of “my pleasure” being uttered every 1.7 seconds, and the cow decor, God revealed some principles that we ought to be applying in our ministries. Here are a few takeaways I learned in a central Indiana Chick-Fil-A.

1. The main thing

When you boil it down, Chick-Fil-A serves fast food. You make an order, you pay, and they hand you a tray.  This is not a new formula; it’s fast food.  So why do I crave THIS fast food over all the other choices I have around me? I believe it’s because Chick-Fil-A serves REALLY GOOD FOOD.  No matter how nice or new the building, how clever the advertising, how many promotions or sales they have, I am not going to eat fast food that is terrible.  Chick-Fil-A has made the main thing the main thing. S. Truett Cathy said, “Food is essential to life, so you should make it good,” and they follow his lead.

In our ministry, I think it is easy to major on the minors. We can get so bogged down in details, criticism, numbers, social media, and the coolest games and totally miss the most important things in youth ministry. When you look at your ministry, what are the pillars? What do you spend the most time on throughout the week? When students come to your ministry, are they impressed by the light show or do they get a healthy dose of Jesus and His Word? Are they blown away by your facility or do they get unconditional love and acceptance? Make sure you take a note from Chick-Fil-A and make the main thing the main thing.

2. Focus

One of the hallmarks of the Chick-Fil-A franchise is their precision focus. When you walk into one of their restaurants, you know exactly what you are getting: chicken. Fried, grilled, nuggets, in a wrap, on a salad, whatever. You are going to eat chicken, plain and simple. Chick-Fil-A makes great chicken, and that’s what they do…all day, every day. Direct, straightforward, simple, and focused.

Sometimes, youth ministry gets the reputation of being controlled chaos. Honestly, as I look at my own ministry, I sometimes bring that reputation on myself. Too often, we try to do too many things in ministry to the point where we lose focus. We end up running around trying to do “everything” and really end up accomplishing nothing. What is your ministry focused on? Where is it going? What are your specific and focused goals? Can you and your team of adult leaders articulate them? What specific and deliberate ways are you fleshing that focus out? Chick-Fil-A knows what they do…do you have the same focus?

3. Environment

I don’t know your take, but I have never had a bad experience eating at a Chick-Fil-A. When I walked in the door with my boys, one of their employees was holding the door. He welcomed us to the store with a smile and kindly greeted my children. We were immediately served, and it was fairly obvious that it was “their pleasure” to make our dining experience a great one. While we were eating, employees came by from time to time to make sure we had everything we needed, to take our trays out of the way, and to refill our drinks. Unlike most fast food restaurants, Chick-Fil-A makes it seem like they are here to serve you as opposed to you serving yourself. Everything they do from their employees down to the real flowers in vases on the tables is designed to make you feel welcome in their store.

I wonder if students feel as welcome in our youth ministry as I do in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant.  When a new student walks in, are they being greeted by other students and our adult leaders?  Do they even know how to get to the youth room when they walk into the building?  Do they feel judged as an outsider, or welcomed as a special guest?  Honestly, upping the welcome factor wouldn’t take much coordination and might make a huge impact.  Chick-Fil-A knows that welcoming its guests is important, and I should probably find a way to follow their lead.

4. Attention to details 

I am amazed by all the attention to detail in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant.  There are things that Chick-Fil-A does for its guests that no other fast food chain seems to even consider.  Pepper mills for customers to grind their own pepper, sanitary wipes outside the kids playground area, a table outside the bathrooms for your drink, and door handles at the proper height for children – all of these details help enhance the great things they already do.

I wonder what small details I could add to our youth ministry that would make a world of difference.  How could I show students and leaders that they are valued and important when they walk in the door?  What element could I add to a mid-week meeting that would give it a new and creative flavor?  What have I missed by doing the “same old thing” that makes our ministry the “same old thing?”  What unexpected step could I take to help students take the message of Christ with them when they leave?  I’d love to hear some of your “details” that enhance what you do so we can learn from each other.

5. Sabbath

Since opening his first restaurant in 1946, Truett Cathy has chosen to close his stores on Sunday, vowing not to deal with money on the “Lord’s Day.”  This Sabbath is a testimony to his faith in God, but is considered completely crazy by others.  Sunday is known as one of the most lucrative days in the food service industry, but Cathy has noted that his decision to close on Sundays is one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

Ministry is always busy, and there is always a “next thing” that we can focus on or one more phone call or contact we can make.  But Chick-Fil-A teaches us that we need a Sabbath.  We need to give ourselves time away from our “job” to focus on God, His Word, and our first ministry to our families.  Don’t miss the importance of Sabbath in your ministry.  In the end, deliberately taking time to refresh and refocus may enhance and lengthen your ministry.

I would love to hear which of these things you resonate with the most.  Please don’t hesitate to share in the comments how the Lord is working on you as you move forward.

Categories: blog, FeaturedSlider, General, Grow, Leadership

2 thoughts on “What Chick-Fil-A Taught Me About Youth Ministry”

  1. Ben B

    I used to work at Chick-fil-A and was a youth minister for about 12 years. Your article is pretty spot on but there are some deeper behind the scenes things that help make sense of yours and most everybody else’s experience in the resturant.

    First off they are not in the food business, they are a people business. From the way you are treated from the moment you walk in the door they have you in mind. From the team member who takes your order and name to the host or hostess in the dining room clean tables, clearing trays and getting refills. You matter to them as a person not a number. This should carry over into youth ministry.

    Another thing is they teach and train “Second Mile Service”. This comes straight from the Bible. Jesus said if a Roman soldier asks you carry his bag a mile, you take it two miles. CFA employees are trained and rewarded for second mile service, for going over and above what is required of a quick service resturant employee. How can youth ministries go over and above what the congregation, parents and leadership require of you and the ministry?

    One last one is that years ago they went out and studies 5 Star resturants and hotels. They brought back ideas of how to treat their customers better. “My Pleasure” is a direct result of that. Youth ministries need to act older and more mature if they want to make diciples that last longer than high school. I’m not saying people should have fun but if that is the only reason teens show up you aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission.

    CFA was a great organization and they have a lot to offer the church. Thanks for the article, it’s a great testament to all the hard work the Cathy’s have done as they have work to for the Lord and not just for man.

  2. Ben Read

    Dude, Ben B. Thanks for sharing all of that. I love those points about the second mile and my pleasure. Great article Keith, and extra info Ben!

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