Point of Grace Interview
About the time you read this,
Point of Grace will be in the later stages of the Girls of Grace conferences
that they host each year and headed into a rigorous nineteen city tour
in support of their new Christmas CD Winter Wonderland. Heather
Payne spent a few minutes with me talking about the importance of the group's
ministry to teen girls, the creation of Winter Wonderland and her own memories
of Christmases past.
One of the things you immediately
learn about Payne is she absolutely loves using the word amazing to emphasize
her point and talking about Girls of Grace is no different. "This is the
fourth year for Girls of Grace. It has been an amazing, amazing experience
for us. To see the response from the girls and the affirmation from their
parents when they say to you, 'thank you so much for doing something like
this because our girls really need this especially with the schools that
they are in.'"
Heather Payne said girls
today are being pushed and pulled in several directions as it relates to
their self image. "It is all about how you look and nobody in the world
focuses on the inward. Girls are really struggling today with what is going
Hardliners may shriek in
horror when they learn that one way that the Girls of Grace conferences
reach out to teenage girls concerning self esteem is by partnering with
a cosmetic company. Well, go ahead and shriek all you want because when
Payne described how this unfolded it sounds cool. "It is Madge cosmetics
and her name is Meg Thompson. She is a makeup artist out of LA. She
said she got tired of things such as the names (being applied to) makeup.
They were getting so sexual, ugly and nasty. She (decided to) start Madge
Cosmetics. She has a great moisturizer and lip gloss that we (POG) love.
She does a little makeover onstage and shows the girls (how to apply) their
makeup. We do a draw and pick girls out of the audience Friday night and
they come in Saturday morning for her to do their makeover. We do a little
before and after."
Makeovers are only one of
the innovative approaches that the Girls of Grace conferences have adopted
as Heather Payne explained, "This year, we are trying to be very vulnerable
with them and just be really honest by saying, 'We dealt with the same
things you are dealing with or we are still dealing with them.' We want
to let them know that they are not the only ones that feel that way. I
think that is why it is so great to have girls come (to the conference)
together. They get to see that there may even be girls in their own school
that are struggling with the same issues. To hear somebody on the platform
say, 'I struggled with this when I was in high school or I still struggle
with things like self image.' These girls want to hear that somebody is
struggling with the same thing. We then show them ways that they can come
out of that and deal with those feelings and that pain."
Someone who has first hand
experience with walking teen girls through painful experiences is Nancy
Alcorn of Mercy Ministries, a regular keynote speaker with Girls of Grace.
Alcorn said, “Mercy Ministries is so blessed to have Point of Grace (Shelley
Breen, Denise Jones, Leigh Cappillino (who replaced the departed Terry
Jones)and Heather Payne as true friends to myself and the young women that
pass through our doors. We could not ask for better role models to share
this outreach to girls through the Girls of Grace conferences. The honesty,
integrity and authenticity of these four women have touched a common chord
with audiences around the world, setting a refreshing new standard for
role models in today's society." Mercy Ministries provides girls who are
struggling with issues such as eating disorders, addictions, abuse, self-mutilation
and unplanned pregnancy with the ability to receive the help they need
"Mercy Ministries is at
our conferences and we (Point of Grace) have worked with them for about
twelve years. They have a home for girls that are in trouble and have trained
counselors. We have a place to point these girls if they have big issues
that they are dealing with. Hopefully, they feel encouraged and (come away
with) hope." Staff and girls who have benefited from Mercy Ministries program
share their testimonies at the events. An information table concerning
the program is also set up at each event.
Heather Payne said the message
they want the conference attendees to hear is one of hope that comes from
God. "One thing that we try to explain to them all of the time is that
it all points back to God. God made us. You are unique and special and
we want you to reach that potential that the Lord has for you."
Thinking that a lot of the
girls attending these two day events would come from more sheltered environments
I wondered aloud how easy it would be for them to identify with speakers
like Nancy Alcorn. Payne indicated to me, "At every conference there are
at least a handful of girls that have issues nobody know about. There may
be an eating disorder or maybe they are being abused at home or even there
have been things we have had to report to the authorities."
Alcorn said, "The coolest
thing about Mercy Ministries being a part of this is that we have the opportunity
to not only reach girls at a young age about these serious issues before
they need a place like Mercy, but we are also able to give girls hope who
may be in the middle of a life-controlling situation by making them aware
of our program.”
She added sadly, "There
are also girls who are sheltered and may not know about those things that
are going on but even more than you would think some of these girls are
dealing with things like eating disorders. All girls deal with their image
and wanting to be picture perfect. There is one thing that we have been
amazed atat every single conference no matter what region we were
in of the United States we have numerous questions asking us if it is okay
to cut yourself." She went on to explain that the questions were anonymously
submitted on cards.
For those not familiar with
the term "cutting," it is used to describe an action often undertaken by
teen girls to disfigure themselves by cutting their skin with a knife or
some other sharp object. Heather continued, "It is an epidemic in teenage
girls today. From what we have gathered these girls are experiencing so
much pain and turmoil on the inside that they want to do something to take
that pain away so they try and hurt themselves on the outside."
Payne talked about a shock
she received recently, "What is so crazy about it is, we were at a festival
not too long ago and a girl not too much younger than us (POG) approached
Denise and said, 'Thank you for talking about that (cutting) because it
is something that I struggle with today.' It's not something just affecting
teenage girls it is something that even adult women deal with. I never
thought about anything like that but I know that there are girls who do."
Turning her attention to
my original question concerning the relevance of Nancy Alcorn's message
to those who come from more sheltered environments, she said, "They may
not identify exactly with what Nancy Alcorn is talking about, but most
of them do know of somebody who does. It is an epidemic. It really is."
It is not just women who
are firm believers in the message that Girls of Grace are delivering but
singer/songwriter Mark Schultz, who performed in concert at this year's
conventions, said, "I spent almost ten years as a Church Youth Director.
I can’t imagine any mom not wanting her daughter to attend a Girls of Grace
Conference if it was in the area. In a society that seems to excel at confusing
and selling “counterfeit” images to young women, GOG is a safe place where
girls can come to get straight, honest talk from godly women who encourage
the girls to stay pure and get their self-esteem from a loving God who
lives to pursue them."
Schultz is the only guy performing
or speaking at the conferences attended by crowds as large as 8,000 teen
girls from junior high age to grade twelve. Ms. Payne said that he was
a big hit.
Heather Payne, let's talk
about your new Christmas album the second one the group has released. It
sounds like you had a lot of fund making this one.
Instantly the delight in
her voice could be heard as she said, "I am so glad you said that because
I just wrote a newsletter to all of the people on our list and said, 'I
hope that you hear we had fun on this record because we really, really
did. It was long and hard to do but we had a good time.' I am so glad that
you said that because we had such a good time. We all got giddy. We are
all vocal majors and it was four part harmony. Oh, it was so much fun."
(Score one for the interviewer--I hit a hot button!)
SHe laughed when I said
I almost expected to hear them break out in "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from
Company B" "I know we wanted that whole Andrew sisters and Lennon sisters
(sound)." Then just in case she forgot to tell us, "It really was such
a fun album and we had such a good time doing it." Not to create the wrong
impression, this album has a variety of different sonics applied to the
Still enthusing about the
album, Ms. Payne said,"We had a vocal producer and his name is Ken Davis.
He is a master at that kind of music. We worked with him on our last Christmas
album on (the song) "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." He is just a master
at it. He is funny and fun to record with. We had the best time working
with him. I think because we worked with him last time it was so natural.
He was so much fun."
She said Point of Grace
really enjoyed the opportunity to sing songs that had four part harmonies.
"When you think about four part harmony, there are a lot of things that
we sing that are really just three part harmony because in pop music you
don't get that four part stuff so much. You get two of us doubling up on
the melody, with one up and one down. It sounded good from the first line."
Those of you familiar with how much time is invested in the studio will
be impressed when Heather said that it only took them one day to nail each
of the songs.
Michael W Smith guests on
Winter Wonderland. He plays the piano on the rendition of "All Is Well"
that he reworked with Wayne Kirkpatrick. She was first introduced to the
song three years ago while touring with Smith. "At rehearsal it was just
Smitty and me and something happened. It just fit my voice perfectly,"
Heather Payne said. When it came time to record the song for this album
she admitted, "I was really nervous because a lot of times it (a song)
comes off better live than it will record. I was nervous about it translating
on a record the way it translated live. Smitty came in and I recorded the
vocal while he played the piano. It was a magical thing and I feel like
it was inspired. We added orchestra to it. I think everybody feels we pulled
off what we hoped we would."
She said she hopes the song
"All Is Well" will bring peace to the many people who suffered such great
loss this year during the hurricane season.
I asked her how challenging
it was to create a Christmas CD in the middle of summer. "It isn't as challenging
as you think but it is a little strange to sing "Winter Wonderland" and
walk outside when it is one hundred degrees. We got in there (and lit a
scented) candle so it smelled like pine. It got us in that Christmas mode
and then we walked back outside and got into the heat of the summer. It
wasn't as hard as you think it would be but it was a little strange."
Conversation turned to her
own memories of Christmases past. "I have so many memories of Christmas.
My family used to have so many wonderful Christmases. One of the traditions
my parents had every year and that I want to continue my kids is the day
after Thanksgiving every year we would go out to a Christmas tree farm
as a family and chop down a Christmas tree."
Other traditions included,
"We would go get a new ornament every year that reflected our personalities.
Mom would do her magical lights. We would make hot chocolate. We would
play (she emphasizes the word old) Christmas recordsPerry Como and
all that stuff. We would decorate our Christmas tree and at the end we
would turn the house lights off and turn the tree lights on. That is such
a precious memory for me with our family laughing all of us there. It was
wonderful." Heather looks forward to continuing a lot of the same traditions
with her husband Brian along with children Ella and Nate in their Kentucky
As if Point of Grace doesn't
have enough on their plate this year they have added (and I might add happily
so) the role as spokesperson for Samaritan's Purse Christmas Child project.
"It is such an honor to do. What an amazing thing. It is such a great organization
to be a part of and join hands with. We are so excited to be able to do
this. I believe we are going to be able to take what we collect to the
placeI don't know where it is yet and we will be able to take the
shoe boxes that we have collected and take them to the places (countries)."
At the time of the interview, details had not yet been finalized but Heather
who is expecting her third child had already received clearance from her
doctor to make the trip internationally.
Final question. I know Point
of Grace has ringtones available for cell phones so what I want to know
is do you have a Point of Grace ringtone on your phone? Utterly aghast
I heard her say, "I do not." I told her this is scandalous. Playing along,
she laughed and let me in on a secret, "I will tell you something even
more scandalous is my mother has a ringtone on hers but it is not Point
of Grace. She has Nicole C Mullen. I went home and when I heard it I went,
'Mom what is your ring? What is this?' She said, 'I was trying to figure
it out and I couldn't find your song on there and I didn't know how to
do it so I just picked out one I liked.' I was like, 'let's change this.
Come on. Where's the love?'
Heather Payne, tell the
other members of Point of Grace thank you from all the people you have
blessed down through the years with your music and for giving us another
Christmas blessing with Winter Wonderland.
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.