“You’re in ministry. How do you avoid the insanity of this Christmas season?” my friend recently asked. “I’ve got three kids and between all the church and school programs, we’re always busy!”

There was a time when I added to the Christmas chaos, hosting Christmas parties, special worship nights, and programs for the adult leaders and kids in my youth ministry. But then, in my conversations with parents, I started hearing more and more people echo my friends’ sentiment. At Christmas, people’s to-do lists are at all-time highs. It’s like we pass this season of waiting by filling our calendars. We’re tired and longing for time with our families.

What parents actually want during this time of year is LESS, not more.

After 15 years in ministry, I’ve finally started listening to them.

As a ministry, we no longer host additional Christmas programs. Instead, we limit our festivities to our regularly scheduled youth group times. We replace one of our Wednesday night programs with our Christmas party. In doing so, we avoid adding another thing to families’ already crazy calendars (something that, not-so-coincidentally, also boosts our Christmas party attendance.)

We also don’t have a Christmas program or special worship night. Instead, we encourage teens to bring their families to worship on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and to celebrate these events TOGETHER.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, we actually take a break from programming around the holidays. Because Christmas falls on a Sunday, this year, we’re taking two weeks off of our Sunday program and three weeks off of our Wednesday night program. Doing so gives our adult leaders a break. What’s more, it creates some space for our families, reducing the amount of things they have to juggle this time of year and providing them with opportunities to simply spend time together.

Don’t get me wrong. By reducing our Christmas programs, I know we’re not eliminating the Christmas insanity altogether for people. There are plenty of other things contributing to that.

However, we are sending a countercultural message, one that I hope says, “In the midst of this frantic season, God breaks in and offers rest.”

As the church, we hope to do the same.