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.

    Blessings,

    John

  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!

    ~Taylor

  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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Home, sweet home. 
#seattle 17.5 Year Anniversary!
We still got it. We look gooooood!

Blessed to be back in Princeton, NJ for couple days recently. We had our wedding ceremony in Korea but got "legally" married in the US at Miller Chapel in Princeton Seminary. So, it was only fitting to go back and have my kids take our 17.5 Anniversary  pics. Someday when our kids become adults and they feel like their parents wronged them or neglected them, and they feel like they need to get counseling... I'm going to show them this picture and say, "I HAVE PROOF. WE TOOK YOU TO NYC AND BOUGHT TICKETS TO WICKED ON BROADWAY!" RIP Robin Williams. 
Folks: Please go and - call or hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Remind them how you much appreciate them.

We need to (re)learn how to be more human. Don't avoid eye contact. Don't hide behind gadgets. Smile often - both to neighbors and strangers alike. Ask about peoples' stories. And listen.

And most importantly, remind yourself that YOU are loved. Not just merely by your loved ones but also by the ONE who created all that is good and beautiful. Dang. The bright lights of NYC. 
Having been a youth pastor in Flushing between 1992-1994, I really miss this place.

Empire State of Mind. Smitten my NYC. There's no place like this city in the world.

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