Featured Member Of The Week: Richard Hong

What’s your name?

Richard Hong

Where do you serve, what is your title, and how long have you served there?

I serve as the Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Englewood (NJ) and have served here for 16 years.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t go to church?

I get to be with people at really important moments like weddings and funerals.

What were some of the things that you experienced that shaped the way you approach your work?

I am a second-career pastor. Prior to seminary, I ran my own software business. I wrote software used by pharmaceutical researchers in new drug development (I have a degree in chemistry from Princeton University). Running my business involved developing ads for tech publications, I had to understand accounting, etc. I’ve brought that into ministry. Tech actually led to my call to ministry (long story). The other key experience was that I was in Junior ROTC in high school, rising to the top rank of City Corps Commander of the Chicago Public High Schools JROTC program. JROTC taught me everything I know about leadership. They taught me that leadership isn’t about barking orders; it’s about character and respect. Seminary trained me for maybe 10% of my job as a pastor. Leadership, vision casting, decision making, accounting, marketing … all of that had come from what I did prior to feeling called. In retrospect, I view it as God has prepared me for what God would want me to do later. What I’m doing now has made the purpose of my past become clear.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job?

As a pastor, there are two ways to think about my job. In terms of function, I wish people understood how much administrative work there is. In terms of purpose, I wish people would understand that I spend far more time thinking about people who are not (yet) connected to the church than about people who are.

What is the one tool for your job that you can’t live without, and why?

Generically, my most important tool is still email. It’s still something I couldn’t imagine replacing. The most surprisingly versatile tool I’ve used is Canva. There aren’t many tools I would call brilliant. Canva is brilliant. Intuitive and powerful. I show neophytes Canva and they’re designing decent stuff in no time.

What is the biggest mistake that you see churches making when it comes to communications and marketing?

They often have an uninformed view of how unchurched people view churches, so they put things out that don’t connect with anyone who isn’t churched. A lot of churches would be better off just posting cute kitten photos with their logo on it. Another generic mistake is a lack of a planned “flow”. From first contact to a person connecting with your church is usually a succession of steps, not a single leap. The marketing plan has to be about how you lead a person step-by-step into a relationship with your church.

Who is someone that you look up to in the church communications world?

Katie and Kenny of course! (I had actually encountered Kenny’s work through the church he worked for in NJ). Another person I respect a lot is Beau Coffron, both for what he says and for the output I see from his church.

The church communication community values people like you, Richard! Not all church communicators understand how important it is to think about the people who are not connected to church more than those that are already with a church. And we agree with you that there shouldn’t be a uniformed view of how unchurched people views the church. Thank you for opening up about these significant insights. Keep on preaching!

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