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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Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother. I love all the free amazing views in our Evergreen State. #RattlesnakeLedge

my tweets

  • .@SeattleQuest recently hosted Kenneth Bae (Prisoner 103). He was detained in DPRK for 735days. WATCH his testimony: vimeo.com/167680426 || 16 hours ago
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