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Casting Crowns frontman also a youth pastor

WANT TO GO?

Casting Crowns

With Matthew West

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Charleston Civic Center

TICKETS: $17, $27.50, $37.50 and $77

INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Part of the dream of being a star is that you get to give up the day job. You don't have to deliver pizzas anymore. You don't have to teach guitar lessons or do whatever it is you do to pay the rent while you pursue those dreams of fame and fortune. After you make it big, you can give it up and do what you've always dreamed.

Mark Hall, singer for Casting Crowns, never gave up his day job -- and, really, never wants to.

Along with fronting the Grammy and multiple Dove award-winning band, which performs Saturday at the Civic Center, Hall is a youth pastor at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., a medium-sized town 30 miles from Atlanta. Sunday through Wednesday, he works at his church, ministering to the spiritual needs of about 400 teens.

"Wednesday night is youth group night," Hall said. "It's our big teaching night. We call it 'Fire By Night.' We have that, then we [the band] get on the bus around midnight and head out."

That's when he punches the clock on his job as the front man for the contemporary Christian rock band.

"We travel and perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and roll back into town Sunday morning," he said.

He usually sleeps on the bus.

With his youth ministry, Hall leads services and keeps regular office hours at the church, which might sound strange for someone with his level of success. When it debuted, the band's current album, "Come to the Well," was No. 2 on the Billboard 200, second only to Adele's "21."

Still, Hall loves what he does. So much so that it's hard to say precisely which job title, performer or pastor, he considers his actual day job.

"The world is a lot bigger than what you do from 8 to 5," he said.

Both are part of a life. The pieces look separate on a calendar, but they fit together because of Hall's faith in Jesus Christ. He said he couldn't live the way the he does otherwise.

"If I lived by how I feel," he laughed. "I'd be in trouble."

Like anyone else, Hall said, he gets tired. He gets annoyed, frustrated and even sick. There are days when the alarm clock goes off and he doesn't even want to get out of bed, let alone go to his office or get on a bus in the middle of the night to drive 500 miles for a concert.

"The truth is, God has put me here to know him and make him known," Hall said, "and I'm going to do that."

He chooses to live by faith. The rest kind of takes care of itself, although Hall pointed out that he has a lot of help. His wife of 21 years, Melanie, runs most of the day-to-day business operations of Casting Crowns, which Hall said allows him to stay active in the church.

"She's the left side of my brain. And if anything is going well for us [Casting Crowns], it's God taking care of her. She's just an awesome lady."

The two met at his home church after her family moved to town and her father became the music minister. Hall was in fifth grade. She was in seventh.

"She was the prettiest girl ever," he laughed, "and I was the little kid who got on all the high school kids' nerves -- the kid whose parents helped out with the youth group."

Hall said he and his future wife were friends for years, then started dating when he was about 20.

"We only dated for four months. It was like, 'What's left to get to know?' "

Hall said they're total opposites. "But what keeps us together is, we're part of each others lives. We're not living separate lives. We've been part of each other's ministry. We're partners."

So when Hall climbs into his bunk Wednesday night, his family does, too. They try to keep it fun for the family, make every trip away from home fun for kids.

"We hit the town," he said. "We go to the park or a children's museum, something fun for the day."

Hall said he squeezes a lot into his life, but there's no big mystery about how he does it.

"I think understanding who you are is what keeps you going," he said. "I think, if I'm just here to get to the weekend or to retire some day . . . forget that. All I really want is to be a good husband and a good daddy. I think that, as long as my kids are loving Jesus and loving each other, I'll be OK."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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