Eugene Cho's Secret to Avoid Ministry Burnout

"What I tell some of the younger pastors that I’m mentoring is to do ministry from the inside out, not from the outside in."

Eugene Cho is the pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, and founder of One Day’s Wages (ODW), a grassroots movement that encourages people to give a day’s wages to help fight extreme global poverty.

Cho, a bold advocate for the small church leader in the trenches, is featured in the new July/August Small Church America issue. In this excerpt we talk with him about safegurarding our hearts from ministry burnout, what keeps him at Quest, and his must-know advice for young leaders.    

On ministry burnout and leadership health

I’ve made a change this past year to make a serious commitment to Sabbathing. It’s not rocket science. Every pastor knows it. They teach it, but I think the practice of it is a different story. You can’t practice Sabbath if you haven’t set aside time for Sabbath. So for me, I’ve come to make that commitment to set aside time—and by time, I’m not talking about 24 hours in this legalistic sense. I’m just setting aside time to rest and rejuvenate and recall God’s faithfulness in my life, to party, to really be grateful. So that’s been helpful, and I’m trying to have more of a rhythm.  

I’m committed to the work I do, but every three years I take an extended Sabbath with my family. I take three months off. Because it’s important, we try to make sure that all of our church staff get double their vacation every three years. It’s usually an extra month for folks to be able to, again, have that extended sabbatical.

From Outreach Magazine  Makoto Fujimura: Broken and Made New—Part 2

What keeps Cho at Quest

We’re living in such interesting times. I can count on one hand the number of people in my church of 400 adults that have been at their same job for over five years. It’s a culture of constant mobility. We’re living as pastors with expectations of stability in a culture that’s not very stable. So I think there is something about us that is also tempted by the grass being greener on the other side.  

Maybe that’s one way that we’re countercultural. I’ve often said to people that when I feel like I’m tempted by the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, it’s the Holy Spirit saying to me, “It’s time to water the grass that you’re standing on.” I have to know what that looks like for me. Now I know. I know it means praying, retreating, going fishing, getting away, but if you don’t even know what “watering your grass” means, you’re in trouble.