What if the church was more like Chick-Fil-A? Don’t get too worked up about that comment. This is not a political commentary. I have feelings about businesses being politically conscious and active, but that’s not my point. And if I were to be completely honest, I do not like the constant, “My pleasure,” comments. I estimate that those minimum wage workers who are relentless in their pursuit of my satisfaction are concerned about my feelings somewhere around 23% of the time. I do believe that Chick-Fil-A works harder than most other comparable fast food stores at ensuring that I have a good experience. To that end, I appreciate a nice “my pleasure” or two. But really? When I hear it 13 times in one visit it makes me question your sincerity.

To get a fuller understanding of my thoughts on this, we have to rewind approximately 20 years. And we have to move to another part of town to find Chuck E. Cheeses. If you don’t know Chuck E Cheese, you may be one of the lucky ones. Chuck E Cheese is a (bad) pizza restaurant with arcade games, performing animatronic characters and a ball pit filled with more germs than the toddler room at your local daycare center. The target demographic for this place is the 7-12-year-old child and his or her parents.

When my daughter was young I hated the place. It was noisy. It was expensive. And the pizza was only a step or two above the flavor of cardboard. But Molly loved it. We went there for special occasions, birthdays and good report cards. It was miserable for this dad. But here’s the thing. The Chuck E Cheese people wanted me there and they were willing to work for my satisfaction and the joy and safety of my child. 

On one visit I sat in our booth far from the playground and the arcade and watched the high school students who were working at the restaurant. There was one who was refreshing the salad bar. Another was making sure that the napkin dispensers were filled. There was a whole crew that was working to keep the place clean. And that’s what I noticed. One boy was sweeping the floors. And there was a girl with a spray bottle and a rag wiping each table. But she wasn’t just wiping the tables. She sterilized them. She took great care to get the whole surface of the table, including the edges.

She did a good job, but it was the next step that set the process apart for me. This girl used her spray bottle to spritz the benches of each booth. She sterilized the seats where families would be sitting. She was cleaning an area that I had never considered. Now, I’m sure that cleaning the seats was a part of her job. I don’t for a minute think that this teenage girl came up with cleaning those seats on her own. Someone told her to. But that’s the point. Chuck E Cheese was willing to do whatever it had to do for me to have a good experience.

And that gets me back to Chick-Fil-A. They want me to have such a positive experience that they aggravate me with their courtesy. They occasionally offer free ice cream to customers. They even have mouthwash dispenser in the restroom. (Check it out. You won’t be sorry.) That is just a few of the reasons that the drive-through is always a madhouse and there is a long line to order inside the store. That is, on every day but Sunday.

So, what if the church was more like Chick-Fil-A? What would happen if we were friendly, polite and overly courteous to everyone who came into our church? What would happen if we considered the needs of worshipers- members and guests- more than the staff of the church? What if we offered amenities that went beyond the expectations of our “customers”? 

What if the church was more like Chuck E Cheese? Would it make a difference if we prioritized every person in the congregation? What if we provided a clean, well-lit, safe environment for all people to experience the grace of God? What if we took into consideration the needs and desires of every family member when we planned our services, our programs, and our buildings?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I know that more people go to restaurants than come to church. And the stakes are too high to take this for granted. If I have a bad experience at Wendy’s, I will try another location of the same chain. Or I might switch to Burger King. But I’ll still eat at a restaurant. Too often if someone has a bad experience at church, he will never go to any church again. We should take that seriously. We don’t have to be perfect, but we should try to be like Chick-Fil-A.