Published: 2 weeks ago

Flex Your Formula

As many of you know, I live in a household that is 66% Chick-fil-A employees. Four out of six people is actually 66.6%, but that seems too much like the Mark of the Beast, and we know such a number cannot co-exist with Christian Chicken. So let’s just go with two-thirds, shall we?

(Yes. We shall.)

But I digress. All of my Chick-fil-amily work at the same store, which was closed for remodeling during the month of July. They do this from time to time to cause everyone across three zip codes to realize just how good they have it when they’re forced to endure another dining establishment, thereby cementing brand loyalty from now until Jesus comes back (and we all know the first stop after that trumpet sounds is going to be Christian Chicken for a #1 meal, extra pickles, well done (my good and faithful servant) waffle fries, and a diet lemonade).

I digress again. Last Thursday night the store did a soft reopen prior to the Friday launch, and fed team members’ families to make sure all of the equipment was in order and all of the new systems could be put to the test. My oldest son asked if I’d be willing to toss on a uniform and help serve tables. And of course I said yes, because serving Christian Chicken with no paycheck involved is the dining equivalent to going on a mission trip and sleeping on the floor of a church gym…you get tons of extra jewels in your crown.

So there I was, a freshly-appointed Chick-fil-A employee in a too-large uniform and an “in training” name tag, having just completed my nine-step training:

  1. Take the tray and the little computer-generated slip of paper with the customer’s name and description of the table marker (i.e., blue fruit cup).
  2. Wander the dining room until you see the matching table marker.
  3. Address the customer by name: “Steve? I have your meal right here.”
  4. Ask Steve if he needs anything else: sauces, freshly-ground pepper, a beverage refresh, perhaps a bedtime story.
  5. Take the table marker, pour any straws or sauces into your cupped hand, place them gently on the table.
  6. Tell them to enjoy their meal.
  7. If they say thank you, say “No problem, dawg.”
  8. Explain that you’re just joking and say “No really. My pleasure. Please don’t report me to the Chick-fil-Authorities.”
  9. Smile the entire time, even though you’ve walked 17 miles in one dining room and you just want the Chick-fil-A cow to appear out of nowhere and wordlessly offer to rub your feet.

And by 5:30 p.m., I was off to the races. The first shift of employee families came in. I mentally reviewed my training with each table delivery: Take the tray and slip of paper…find the table marker…address by name…”Can I get you anything else?”…take the table marker…catch the sauces…”Enjoy your meal!”…”My pleasure”…smile. 

Tray, slip of paper, table marker, name, Anything else?, table marker, sauces, Enjoy!, My pleasure, smile.

Tray, slip, marker, name, Anything else?, marker, sauces, Enjoy!, My pleasure, smile.

Tray slip marker name anything else marker sauces enjoy my pleasure smile.

A few hours and several dozen table deliveries under my belt, I had the formula down pat. But that was the problem: I was repeating a formula. I was so intently concentrating on my task, I forgot about touch. While I was doing exactly what I was asked to do, I forgot the heart with which I should do it.

I was so busy doing, I failed at being.

Perhaps you see where I’m going with this.

I fear that we do the same thing on the weekends. We load our volunteer teams up with every conceivable plan, contingency plan, and worst-case scenario. We require them to be technicians, when we should encourage them to be artists. We try to over-prepare them to serve people, and forget to release them to simply be people with people.

Don’t get me wrong: training for a job is important. But once you realize that your volunteer has gotten the hang of their role, encourage them to simply…roll. Fulfill their duties, yes. But fulfill them not as an automaton robot, but a living, breathing soul who is connecting to other living, breathing souls.

When we flex our formulas, it frees us to build friendships.

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