Eugene Cho

sabbaticals and investing in yourself

It’s been an intense three years.

I can’t even begin to wrap my heart and mind over everything that’s transpired over the past three years. I’m grateful for God’s provision and faithfulness. But I’m also a bit drained which is why I’m so thrilled to share that I officially begin my sabbatical today.

Every three years, I take 3 months off from my work as a pastor at my church.

When my wife and I planted Quest nearly 10 years ago, we had one very important request and that was to take a sabbatical every three years. Typically (for some churches and senior pastors), they take one year off every 7th year. I didn’t want to do that because waiting 7 years would have killed me and being away from a church community for an entire year would have been difficult in light of so many changes that take place in a young church.

Anyway, I’m so grateful to my staff and Quest Church for being so gracious and enabling me to have this gift. I treasure it.

I’ve been receiving a few questions here and there so I thought I’d answer a few:

Umm, what is a sabbath?

Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”) is a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year).

The foundational Bible passage for sabbatical concepts is Genesis 2:2-3, in which God rested (literally, “ceased” from his labor) after creating the universe, and it is applied to people (Jew and Gentile, slave and free) and even to beasts of burden in one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11, reaffirmed in Deuteronomy 5:12-15). [wikipedia]

Why are you taking a sabbath?

  • I want to avoid Death by Ministry. It’s that simple.
  • The best way for me to change the world is to invest in myself.
  • Need to pour into my marriage and children.

Don’t you feel guilty for taking three months off?

I understand what a privilege that is in our society. It’s too bad that most – if not all – folks are not taking some sort of sabbatical. Because  no matter what profession, we should … but I fully acknowledge what a privilege it is for me to take this sabbatical.

Having said that, I don’t feel guilty or apologetic. I work diligently, joyfully, and sacrificially and I hope that no one at my church feels that I don’t deserve it.

What are you planning on doing during the sabbatical?

Well, I want to avoid stuff related to church because that’s what I normally do. I’m so grateful for my church staff and community for allowing me to take this time off.

My agenda for the sabbatical is to pour myself into rest, Minhee, the kids, rest, sleep, fishing, the outdoors, etc. In fact, we’re estimating that we’ll spend about 7000 miles on the road during our sabbatical. I want to especially show the family some of my favorite national parks around the country.

I’m also hoping to actually blog more regularly. Not because I have to but over the past year in the midst of busyness, my blogging has been very infrequent. What folks don’t know is how much blogging is “life-giving” for me…

And yes, I am obligated to say that I’m reading couple books. Just kidding. But not kidding about couple books I’m looking forward to finishing.

And while I’ll be sabbathing from Quest, I’ll be doing some light engagement with One Day’s Wages.

How do you suggest I convince my church about a sabbatical for me?

Show them this article. 

If you’re a senior pastor, I would strongly recommend a similar rhythm of 3 months of every 3 years – more or less. If you’re on staff, you require a sabbatical, too. I would encourage a formula for your sabbatical to be a doubling of your normal vacation time (at least). Several of our staff at our church have also received sabbaticals but I hope to encourage an official rhythm that enables their vacation time to be at least doubled + an extra week or two every three years.

What do I do when they say no?

(Wisely and Graciously)…Move on.

The race is not to the swift. It’s not a sprint. For many of us younger pastors (and I’m graciously grouping myself with you), ministry grows increasingly complex. We have to think about what a marathon looks like.

I realized some time ago that I could not possibly continue to do ministry at my current pace for another 30 years.  As I continue to ask myself the larger “life giving questions”, I needed to slow down, practice Sabbath if even in creative ways, and honor the rhythm of my sabbatical.

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17 Responses

  1. Joey McGee says:

    Kudos to you for pausing! It seems that a lot of leaders are taking a rest during this season; I’m excited about that because I sense God being up to something good in it! Of course he’s always good.

    Shalom to you and your family as you rest and re-create!

  2. K. says:

    Thank you for such a well thought out post regarding sabbaticals and I applaud you for encouraging churches to look to providing some type of sabbatical for other staff. I desperately could use a sabbatical, after 5 years, and an extraordinary increase in workload. It would be very refreshing and is a topic that I might suggest to one or two of our leaders. Thank you for validating that staff members are important too.

  3. Kara says:

    If you happen to make your way to the south east, aka Atlanta, I would love you see you guys! I would even drive a ways to meet up!!

  4. Can you repost with my correct name and delete my prior comment? Thanks.

    Thanks for the post, and showing the importance for all of us to take time to invest in our self development. While most may not be able to take a true sabbatical, there are moments in each day, each week and each year where we can choose to not engage in things that may seem important, but are not critical. If that time is spent wisely, we can think, plan, prioritize our families, our relationship with God, and strengthen ourselves for the next round in our primary calling.

  5. g says:

    I’ve always admired your commitment to taking a regular sabbatical to rest and spending time with your family. Have a pleasant (and relaxing) time, Pastor E!

  6. […] sabbaticals and investing in yourself. […]

  7. Chris says:

    Very timely. I’ve just submitted my proposal for a 3-month sabbatical next year, my 7th year of ministry at my church. Thankful to the Lord for the opportunity and to the elders of our church for their wisdom in offering it.

  8. johnhkim says:

    Great post. My family & I are just entering into our first Sabbatical & thinking why I haven’t done so before. Resting is Biblical & should be planned out well in all ministries.



  9. Taylor says:

    Eugene I don’t think anyone would say you don’t deserve a sabbatical. I hope you have a restful time not just so that you can come back to ministry rested and rejuvenated but just for the sake of having fun. You’re a blessing to Quest and I appreciate your wisdom, honesty and courage. Hope you have an awesome adventure this summer!


  10. […] priest Caiaphas mentioned in the New Testament, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday."Eugene Cho on sabbatical. An Irish thinker reflects on Luther's famous lines.Working mom calling with April.I […]

  11. […] Cho explores the value of sabbath and personal […]

  12. […] our season of simplicity may be getting lost on us – again. As most of my readers know, I’m currently on sabbatical. It’s something I treasure every three years and during my sabbatical, we usually leave Seattle […]

  13. […] our season of simplicity may be getting lost on us – again. As most of my readers know, I’m currently on sabbatical. It’s something I treasure every three years and during my sabbatical, we usually leave […]

  14. Jack Kooyman says:

    I came across your post as I am preparing to request my first sabbatical after more than 17 years in my present position as the ceo of a nonprofit ministry. Your post gave me a greater sense of urgency about my need for a sabbatical. Thank you!

  15. […] during our season of simplicity may be getting lost on us – again. As most of my readers know, I was recently on sabbatical. It’s something I treasure every three years and during my sabbatical, we usually leave Seattle […]

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One Day’s Wages

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The Western Wall in Old City of Jerusalem (aka The Wailing Wall) - from the Second Jewish Temple.

I'm hoping to share a few stories of people that I met (Jewish, Muslims, and Christians) in the Holy Land in the days to come. One of our Palestinian tour guides said to me, "You will leave with more questions...and that's a good thing." He was absolutely right. We want everything so nicely packaged but if we're honest, it's very rare in a broken, complex world...and I can't think of too many things more complex than the situation in Israel and Palestine.

While I certainly understand and resonate with Israel and its history and its need to protect itself from harm, one can't deny the history and existence of Palestine as well. 
Is peace possible? This was the focus of my trip to the Holy learn more about the conflict and those that are working towards peace. My friend, Scott (and other pastor), Mae (our guide) and I had the privilege of going to a Jewish synagogue this past Friday. We were then hosted by a local rabbi and his family for a Shabbat meal. It was marvelous. Incredible. Illuminating. Delicious. A true honor to be invited to his home with his wife and three children. To pray, learn, share, and ask questions. 
What I loved the most was the story of how Rabbi Daniel and his wife rented a bus to take 15 of their friends to the West Bank ... to see for themselves the impact of the wall and the Israeli policies. Some of their friends had never even entered the West Bank...don't personally know a Palestinian. It's impossible to work towards peace when we don't know anyone from the other side...when we don't understand the other side.

Thank you, Rabbi Daniel. Old Jerusalem. So many stories. So much history. The synagogue in Capernaum (Galilee) where Jesus began his public ministry. He taught with authority... Pray for your pastors and teachers...that they may teach with courage, conviction, humility, and ultimately, directing people to Christ - the Word made flesh.

Speaking of, so excited to be teaching at @Quest Church tomorrow. If you're in the Seattle area, join us. A glimpse of Jordan River where John baptized Jesus. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." What amazes me most about this event is about...timing and patience. For Christ, it wasn't about "if" but about "when." In a world of supersonic pace,  impatience, quick results, hurry and now and NOW...Jesus waited for the Father's timing. He was patient and faithful. I need to learn that waiting on the Lord in itself isn't apathy but rather an act of faith. The town of Bethlehem and at the site of the cave (aka manger) of the birth of Christ.

One of the highlights was a class of Palestinian Muslims and Christian kids in a local public school singing a Christmas carol for us in Bethlehem...just across the Shepherd's Field. Galilee. Surreal to be at the mountainside where Jesus delivered "The Sermon on the Mount" ... aka The Beatitudes. Walking around praying for Paris, Beirut, Istanbul, Nigeria, Mali, Palestine/Israel... This verse is so particularly important in light of all the violence in the world. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9

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