BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Casting Crowns: A Heart for Generation Next
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
NASHVILLE -- The lights go down, the curtain rises, and the excitement level is nearly palpable. You have been waiting for months to see this concert, to worship with family and friends, and to hear what is on the heart of your favorite band.
Casting Crowns fans now have a chance to relive the most popular Christian music tour of 2007/2008. Releasing tomorrow (Tuesday), “The Altar and the Door Live” is a two disc set featuring eight live songs on both CD and DVD.
Highlighted by music from their best selling “The Altar and the Door” album, the double disc is filled with bonus features including a behind the scenes documentary and the new “Slow Fade” music video.
Perhaps the most important feature of the new release, though, is four five-minute teaching videos from Casting Crowns front man Mark Hall that are geared for personal use, church services, or Bible studies.
CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Hall, guitarist Juan DeVevo, and violinist Melodee DeVevo to discuss the importance of youth ministry, what makes ninth grade so critical in a teenager’s life, and how parents can better engage youth culture.
You have had a tremendous year with this record, “The Altar and the Door”. You have had so much success that you were nominated for 10 Dove Awards, winning four. What is it about this album that is making such an impact with people?
Mark Hall: We aren’t trying anything new. We haven’t reinvented ourselves. Our songs are just coming out of our lives. These are things we are dealing with. It is also coming out of the ministry of our church through working with teenagers and college students and their families that we pour into every week. It is really just more of the same. Somebody might mean that as derogatory but for me it is just discipleship through music.
Juan DeVevo: The songs may seem at first glance to be critical but they are actually – we say the word ‘We’ a lot in songs. That is meant to be a sort of ‘let’s do this’ together. We are in the crowd just encouraging people. We are not coming from on top. We are in the Church. We are saying, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ We are trying to encourage people.
Megan Garrett (Casting Crowns keyboardist) is not here, but in doing some research for this interview she has been quoted as saying, “Casting Crowns isn’t our priority. Our priority is to our churches and to our families.” So, with that said, why is locally focused ministry so important to you all?
Mark Hall: I don’t think it is because it is more spiritual or more noble. It is just where God has us right now. When you start getting closer to the Lord in your walk with Him you will start discovering your gifts. But then you will start discovering where He wants you to use those gifts. God brought us all together and one of the neat parts about it is that He gave us all the same heart. So our hearts are for the ministry of the Church. That has got to be first. Casting Crowns flows out of that. It is like an arm of it. But it can never be the point. If it becomes the point it will just become a machine trying to crank out something it used to say.
Mark, you wrote an article for USA Today last fall. In that article you noted that ninth grade or a child’s freshman year of high school is a highly critical year for youth. It is kind of a make or break year as it relates to whether a teen is accepted or not by his/her peers. What can parents and youth pastors do to insure that kids don’t fall into that trap?
Mark Hall: I think that the number one thing you have got to do is be with them and spend time with them. I think we are trying to pack relationship maintenance, preventative maintenance, future stuff, all into a ride to school and back. This usually ends up being a ‘Hey, how was school today?’ ‘It was pretty good.’ ‘So, what are you going to do this weekend?’ ‘I don’t know.’ It never segues into any of the things you really want to talk about. It just creates an awkward moment that you don’t know what to do with. To me, one of the things my dad did that changed me forever – at the time I thought it was just insane – was that we would just work on projects together. We would spend hours together. He would drag me away from the television to go build something in the back yard. I used to think he had to be kidding. He wasn’t. But it was usually in hour two or three when we would start having conversations with my dad sharing important stories about his childhood. Barriers would start coming down. Then things would start getting talked about. We are in so much debt and now we are so busy. We are working so much that we aren’t with our kids and when we are, we somehow feel entitled to treating ourselves to time away. So, now, we all deserve to play for golf nine hours a day instead raising our kids. To me, put the golf clubs up on eBay and discover your children – or take them with you. You have got to spend time with them.
Speaking of eBay, specifically the Internet, these social networks like Facebook and MySpace have just gone crazy. Obviously, it is important for parents to be conscious of that and what is going on out there on the Internet. How can parents better engage with this type of culture that is often a foreign concept to them?
Mark Hall: There needs to be barriers. On a practical level, a teenager does not need a computer in his room. There needs to be accountability. So, what that means is that there needs to be education for the adult. Normally, I think parents just came home one day and their kids weren’t yelling anymore. They were all quiet in their rooms. They were thinking, ‘Hey, I can have some down time. The kids are on their computer.’ It used to be his circle of influence might have been 50 people. Now, it is 300 or 400 people. It’s not just Internet. It’s text messaging. Most teenagers right now are in 15-20 active conversations at the same time. They are always in communication. There are five conversations going through their head that they are in the middle of right now while you are talking to them. Everywhere they go there is always information going in and going out. As a parent, you need to create moments where that goes away.
If you have a Facebook account and you are joining up with some of your kids, do they view you as a snoop or as someone meddling into their affairs?
Mark Hall: It depends on how you handle it. Teenagers will feel you out. They will tell you something their friend did just to see what you will do. They say something like, ‘I can’t believe my friend snuck out of their house the other night.’ ‘You should never hang out with him again!’ Based on that they say to themselves, ‘Alright, now I know how to deal with that.’ They do it just to see how you will react to it.
Juan DeVevo: Whether it is in a virtual or normal sense, if you call a youth out in front of everybody will be different than if you just pull them aside and talk to them rationally. So, if you throw some comment up on their (social network’s) main page rather than just commenting to them privately there is a world of difference.
At your concerts, you always remind youth pastors that relationships not lectures are the key to reaching young people. Is there a right way or a wrong way to go about this?
Mark Hall: I think that leadership by position doesn’t go anywhere. Most teenagers have figured out that almost every adult in their life is paid to be there. So, you just lost a little credibility in their life book. So, you earn the right through relationships. Relationships speak truth into someone’s life. That is going to be very different for a youth pastor, a coach, or someone, or just an adult who wants to pour into a student. You have to earn that. But even as a parent, ‘Because I told you so’ works when you are five years old. Not that this phrase is not truth and they need to learn that this is authority. And if you can’t deal with authority you are going to have a long, hard life. But at the same time a relationship is introducing the atmosphere, making things that makes it easier to talk.
Juan DeVevo: For me, it is all about time spent with kids. I don’t have any charisma. People don’t instantly gravitate toward me. They have to be around me for a little bit. But I have found that just being around teenagers, talking to them, and something as simple as knowing their name. Go to their sporting events. If they play an instrument go to their recitals or concerts. That speaks volumes to kids.
This is sort of a broad question but are you satisfied with where you are at, at this moment in time … in all phases of your ministry?
Mark Hall: No. You are always wishing you could do more because we always have to say no to things. You are always feeling like you let somebody down. I can’t be at my students’ football games. I can’t be at their soccer games. It is just too hard. But at the same time, there are so many things that I can be a part of with Casting Crowns that I can’t do. You always feel that but at the base of it you get satisfied when you remember that God opened all of this up He knew this was going to be tight. Apparently He is cool with this. So, I need to be cool with this. The closer we are to Jesus the more satisfied we are with how things are.
Final question, what has God been showing you lately?
Melodee DeVevo: Very recently, He has just been showing me about being consistent. I always talk to God but it was like I wasn’t listening. You have to read His Word to hear from Him and it was like I was just going la la la la la la. I was doing that and never really listening for an answer. I believe God is preparing me for whatever is next whether it is tomorrow or down the road.
Mark Hall: For me it is just drawing my strength, my sustaining power, and being filled with Jesus and the things that can be around you. For example, public approval, success, all those things. What if you don’t have those things? Suddenly, the whole sky is falling instead of just letting my walk with Jesus being the well I draw from in order to pour into those other things. They don’t pour into me. Popularity cannot pour into you. It can excite you but it cannot fill you. God has to remind me that He is the sustainer. I can’t feed off those other things. I can only feed off of Him.
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