• Blog
  • I Wrote a Song, Now What?

    First off, congratulations – it IS something to celebrate when we are able to churn out a song that articulately expresses EXACTLY what our hearts have been trying to express – a process that oftentimes comes with much pondering, seeking, wrestling and frustration! After your song has been birthed, many would ask: ‘So…what do I do with it now’? Here are some of my thoughts that I hope will help you consider what to do next:

    Define Its Purpose!

    As worship songwriters, it is our mandate and responsibility to steward the messages and revelations given to us by the Lord for our songs. Sometimes, they may be songs that are primarily for our personal worship – a sacrifice and offering of praise not for anyone else to hear but the Lord. Other times, they may be songs that are supposed to be heard and sung by our communities, local churches, and the global church. That doesn’t mean the song that has a global influence has more value than a personal song for the Lord, it just serves a different purpose, but each is of value in the eyes of the Lord.

    Refinement is Part of the Process!

    Remember, when you get Heaven’s download for a new song – it’s just the first part of the process. It is rare to receive a song that is perfect as it is, because you would often need to go through the process of ‘mining out’ and refining your song. We need to partner with the Holy Spirit in our craft and skill, and in the spirit of excellence to help the song maximise its potential. I once wrote a song called ‘Hand in His’. It took me a couple of years to write because I felt the message behind it was so weighty that I needed to say it absolutely right. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to go through process and seasons in order to have the right words to say. Patience is key; to say exactly the right thing is worth the wait!

    Collaborate in Community!

    If you take a look at the top songs on CCLI, you’ll notice that pretty much all of the songs have multiple songwriters working on it. That’s because 2 is always better than 1! Songs are able to go to places you never expect when you have another creative’s input. Don’t play the ‘possessive’ game, especially if you are writing songs to be a blessing for the local church, work with people you have chemistry with and trust. Working with other songwriters is always helpful in receiving feedback to what is working and what is not!

    Record, Record, Record!

    Once you have refined your song to the best that it can be, it’s time to to get your songs arranged and produced! A producer’s job is to add the ‘dressing’ to the song, so that a full band accompaniment and the like can bring your song to life! Hence, Awaken Generation set up over very own Production House to serve artists in their songwriting and production journey. Post-production entails song editing, mixing (to me one of the MOST important stages of recording that sets apart a GREAT song from an average one – invest in a great mixing engineer), and Mastering. Recording your songs IS an investment – I saved up $5,000 in 2008 working in a retail shop in my university days to record my first EP.

     

    Let It Be a Blessing!

    Songs meant for the church need an opportunity to be heard! At Awaken Generation, we always make it a point to include at least one of our original songs in all our worship sets that we do for Worship Nights, Convergences or church ministries! Songs that carry the heart’s cry and DNA of our local community and nation are powerful because they were written from the soil of the nation! We need to be singing these songs. Find opportunities to use your song live, but also remember we are in a digital age, where getting your songs accessible to an almost infinite world is possible through media like YouTube, Spotify and iTunes. Personally, I’ve been using a third-party distributor (www.tunecore.com) for many years now and have been pretty happy with how they’ve managed my online music catalogue.

    I hope these tips will help you in your songwriting journey. All the best!

  • Community
  • Ministry Burnout // Part 2: Prevention and Warning Signs

    Interview with Calvin Hong by Shawn Wong

    S: So, other than counting the cost, how can burn-out be prevented? Especially amidst fast-paced lives, busy schedules, pressures, and the constant emphasis on getting stuff done.

    C: One way to prevent burnout is to be around people who are full of passion, and understand their value and identity. I like the analogy of the coals. When you isolate one block of coal, it fizzles out over time. But place it among other blocks of coal, it keeps burning and has synergy with the rest.

    So, when I find myself feeling discouraged, or when I don’t see any positive outcomes despite my efforts to achieve something, I find friends around me who are encouragers so I can receive from them and lean on them. Sometimes I watch inspirational videos on YouTube, or testimonies of people.

    The necessary things to do are:

    1. Understand the vision for your life (that God gave you).
    2. Ask: What do you need to stay filled for the long haul (to fulfill this vision)?
    3. Find ways to sustain yourself.

    It applies to other areas as well, like sports, work, and relationships. What keeps you burning? Is it your vision, or your emotions (how you feel)?

    I’ve also learnt to watch and take care of myself, especially in ministry, by learning to say no. It’s learning to say yes to the Lord, but no to the things that can clog up my life. We sometimes find it hard to say no because we don’t want to let people down or miss out.

    S: So have you experienced burnout in your life before?

    C: In all honesty, I’ve not experienced burnout to an extent where I say, “God, I don’t want to walk with You anymore.”

    S: That’s pretty extreme!

    C: The reason why some may get to that place is because of their unrealistic expectations of how God ought to come through for them, but God somehow always comes through and gives us a reality check, which propels us into greater depths of knowing Who He is, without the selfish ambitions or motives.

    God makes a very poor servant, but He makes a very good Father, if you let him be your Master.

    I have had seasons in my life where I had nervous breakdowns. As humans, we break down due to pressures of life or circumstances. It could be a death in the family, or a loss of job or relationship.

    That’s where the Lord brings His comfort through the Holy Spirit. For me, the question is, when these circumstances occur, do I have the courage and understanding to take time to rest? That’s why companies have Annual Leave. Businesses that are not making profits take time out to reassess things and recalibrate, but to say that one is totally burnt-out means that they want to stop pursuing their objective. They have overexerted themselves doing too much, with the wrong motivation.

    I don’t think we can ever get burnt-out loving God.

    S: Is it possible for someone with the right motives to burn out, even if he is doing so as an expression of loving God?

    C: It’s possible. It’s just like the story of the ‘Starving Baker’ that I read in ‘Habitudes’ by Tim Elmore, which I love.

    There was a baker who had a passion for baking. Over time, he realised that a lot of people were coming for his bread. When he saw that his business was growing, he focused on baking even more, instead of training somebody up to assist him. He eventually starved to death.

    It’s very hard when you’re running things all by yourself and don’t delegate. The role of a leader is to lead by example, and to serve, but it’s also to delegate. It’s not a one-man show. I see leaders taking on ten tasks, which looks glamorous on the outside. But inside, they’re drowning.

    You know you’re becoming a starving baker when, instead of growing joyfully and bearing fruit, you go in the opposite direction. What was supposed to be exciting becomes an obligation or a chore. That’s a sign that something unhealthy is already happening.

    This story is probably the best analogy for someone who started out vibrantly, with the right motives, feeding people, but he forgot to feed himself.

    A good question to ask is: Are you feeding yourself and allowing yourself to get fed?

  • Community
  • Ministry Burnout // Part 1: What is ‘burnout’ & what causes it?

    Interview with Calvin Hong by Shawn Wong

    Singapore has always had the reputation of being a ‘high-pressure society’. Sometimes this high performance drive infiltrates even the church and affects the way we do ministry.  I sat down with AG Mentor & Senior Leader Calvin Hong to have a conversation about the dreaded ‘ministry burnout’ and how to avoid it. 

    S: ‘Burnout’ – It might be a term that not everyone’s familiar with. What exactly is it?

    C: To be burnt-out means there’s nothing left inside of you to keep going.  For example, the oil in the lamp: If you don’t keep refilling the lamp with oil, it will run out. When people burn out, they usually have a loss of value, identity, or passion.

    I don’t think burnout is necessarily spiritual; I think it’s usually relational. “I don’t feel like I fit in” or “I’m so disappointed in this or that person.” It could be a result of bad leadership or poor decision-making. But if you say, “I’m spiritually burnt-out”, it means that there’s a disconnection from the Holy Spirit. It happens when you rely too much on your own strength, have become task- or talent-orientated and results-driven, but you don’t see results.

    When people say they’re burnt-out in ministry, it’s because they’ve allowed their work to be the lord and master of their lives, rather than allowing the Lord of the work to be their sustenance.

    S: What causes ministry burnout?

    C: Ministry itself is like work. If you don’t prepare enough food for the journey ahead then, at some point of time, it will run out.

    Luke 14:27-30 says, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”

    People often burn out because they had not counted the cost. There are many Christian leaders who keep saying yes; they don’t count the cost of their commitment.

    They’ve put ministry in priority over themselves. Rather, there must be a healthy tension. My life should revolve around what Christ is doing through me. It must be Christ-centred, not results-orientated to get recognition.

    It’s about guiding yourself by asking: What is the best lane in which God has called me to run this season?

    S: I love what you said about preventing burnout by counting the cost first, before diving into a commitment. What about people who have already committed, and then are starting to feel burnt out?

    C: Sometimes mistakes are how we grow and learn. We need to think: How can I do this or that better?

    For young believers who esteem to achieve something great, there’s something called Process. You’d have to go through the process of life and the school of hard knocks. And if you stick around long enough, you’ll come through it. The important thing is to always do a reality check of where you’re at.

    Sometimes, because we’re so passionate, we overwork ourselves. That’s why all the best athletes have more than one coach for each aspect of their training – conditioning, technique, nutrition, etc. – each warns the athlete when they’re about to overwork themselves or are developing in a wrong direction.

    S: So, other than counting the cost, how can burnout be prevented? Especially amidst fast-paced lives, busy schedules, pressures, and the constant emphasis on getting stuff done. 

    Get Calvin’s answer to this question and more in Part 2 of this interview! Stay tuned for updates!

  • Blog
  • Dealing with Offence, the Number One Relationship Killer

    by Alarice

    Have you ever known a particular ‘easily-offended’ person whom, after a while, would consecutively get offended by every one of their friends and systematically start to cut them off from their circles of influence? It’s not long before you would see them completely isolated, offended by everyone – it becomes them against the world. 

    THIS is the NUMBER 1 strategy of the enemy to steal the abundant life that God has for us.  It says in John 10:10 that the ‘enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy’, and he loves to do this by sowing seeds of bitterness and offence that ultimately lead to the destruction of God-given relationships! Friends, our Christian life MUST be done in the context of relationship, community and family – it is the foundation of Heaven’s culture. There is so much richness to be found in doing life in community – it is where our callings and our identities are affirmed, where we are positioned to fulfil our destinies, and where we are sharpened and experience growth. It’s time we got smarter and realised the enemy’s schemes, learn to forgive, and let go of offence so that we can enjoy the abundance of being ‘set in a family’. 

    So how do we overcome offence? How the Lord has personally shown me, is to ask the Lord to give you a revelation of WHO that person is DESTINED TO BE. Sure, they may have flaws (we, too, have flaws), but it’s not to stumble over who they are not. Instead, we are to celebrate who they are! They are sons and daughters, God sent His Son for them, they are called to do great and mighty exploits in His name! Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities – we have a common enemy and it is NOT your neighbour. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the greatness in that person and you soon will find that you will be able to release your hurt and release that person into the fullness of their destiny in Christ.

  • Behind the Scenes
  • How to Empower Your Sound Team

    By Caleb Chan

    em·pow·er
    /əmˈpou(ə)r/

    verb
    make (someone) stronger and more confident

    The role of a sound volunteer is becoming an increasingly crucial need in churches, spanning from simply ensuring that there is sound, to helping create an atmosphere for God-encounters to take place.

    More and more churches and leaders are beginning to recognise the need for, not only available but equipped sound volunteers in the church. However, most don’t know where to start.

    In this post, I hope to help get you started on 3 powerful investments you can make to empower your sound volunteers to rise up and meet the needs of your church.

    1. People Investment

    Unfortunately, the sound team is usually not an area to which much value or attention is given. In my previous post, I encouraged sound crews to view themselves as part of the Worship Ministry. I would like to encourage leaders to view the sound team the same way.

    The sound team is often made up of volunteers who want to be a part of the worship team but do not play an instrument, non-serving members who have been called upon to fill a need (that was how I began), or musicians who double up on sound every other week. It can quickly become a gathering of passionless volunteers who report weekly, turn systems on, and push volume faders.

    You could always start with a simple “Thank you”, and if you already do that, go further! Empower them! If you see a need to meet up with your worship leaders, band members, or singers, then also include your sound team. Involve them in the briefings, debriefs, bible studies, appreciation dinners, meals, and anything else you plan for your worship team.

    Make investments into the lives of the volunteers and crew on your sound team. When you sow into this relationship, I believe you will reap volunteers who serve passionately because they know they are a part of the bigger picture.

    2. Equipment Investment

    A practical way to empower your sound team is to invest in necessary equipment.

    We want our songs and sermons to be heard clearly and audibly, but sometimes our equipment is no longer able to support the ever growing needs of the church. Newer and more capable gear are being released at lower prices these days and it might be time to consider an upgrade.

    I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase the best mixers and speakers available, but perhaps keep in mind that you plan to empower your sound team by providing them with better tools for the job.

    Listen to their needs and opinions, and work towards a good goal. Upgrades can also be done in phases if the budget does not yet allow for a full major upgrade. New gear might also renew interest and desire in your team to learn more, which leads me to my last point…

    3. Training Investment

    You could give a car to an unlicensed driver and he is likely to get into an accident and wreck it.

    One of the best ways to empower your sound team is not only to equip them with the right tools but the necessary know-how in using the tools to operate effectively. There is a common saying that it’s the ears behind the sound that make it sound good. We may never have the perfect system, but we can certainly optimise what we have. To do that, your sound volunteers need to be trained.

    It does not take an engineer with a diploma or degree to achieve good sound, no matter how technical sound can be. There are certain fundamental concepts that can help provide a platform for sound volunteers with no experience to start off. Just as much as we would not like to roster an inexperienced guitarist on the music team, it is unfair to roster a sound volunteer with no training and expect good sound.

    Again, I challenge you to make these investments. Have a plan to develop and empower your sound volunteers and I believe you will see – or hear – the difference!  Empowered sound teams empower worship teams to usher in the Presence of God.

    For more information on Awaken Generation’s Sound Training Courses, please click here.

    Caleb is a full-time live sound & recording engineer and mentor with Awaken Generation.

     

  • Blog
  • 2017: Heaven’s Invitation to Rise

    awaken (7 of 93)_Easy-Resize.com

    by Alarice


    “And God raised us up with Christ & seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”
    (Ephesians 2:6)

    Heaven is extending its invitation for us to rise – above the chaos, above the trouble, above our circumstances. No matter the weight of the world, the divisiveness of the state in the political realm, the fluctuation of economy, & no matter the challenges each of us are facing individually, we are called not to be defeatists but to rise above in extravagant worship.  

    As we look forward to the gift of a brand new year in the Lord, it starts with making a decision – not to stay where we currently are but to let the fire of our hunger for Him spur us to deeper realms of knowing Him. We must choose to look beyond the storm just like Peter, to fix our eyes & entire beings on Jesus, to MOVE by faith, to take Him by the hand, & that’s when we meet with the impossible. Walking on water is no longer a dream, but a reality.

    awaken (20 of 93)_Easy-Resize.com

    That is my prayer for each & everyone of you this year in 2017, that you will answer the call of the Father to go deeper in the realms of intimacy of worship – that when you do, He will take you by the hand & raise you up to be seated with Him in heavenly places. & how mind-blowingly beautiful & peaceful it is to be seated right here, in the presence of the King of kings with the perspective of Heaven, gazing on the magnitude of His beauty & majesty, completely shattering the falsity of your finite & fragile world.

    Are you ready to take Him by the hand?  

    Love,
    Alarice

  • Blog
  • “I’ll be praying for you…” – Sound Familiar?

    3m5a0513_50

    by Ian Chew


    “I’ll be praying for you”.  

    We quite often say this as a casual remark to bring comfort to a relative or friend when they are going through difficult moments. Yet, how many of us actually do take time amidst our day to present before God in prayer the person we said we would pray for? Many Christians acknowledge the importance of prayer but struggle in the daily pursuit of it. I know I am guilty of expressing the intention to pray for a person yet never really getting down to it.

    It wasn’t until things starting going wrong for the people around me that this realisation came to light. A friend struggled to find a job. A church member failed a driving test. A colleague suffered from sleepless nights because of spiritual oppression. Suddenly, the Lord convicted me of my negligence & indifference. It is not enough just to have a ‘thought’ or ‘intention’ of praying for someone, & then expect God to come through for them at the end. I needed to contend in prayer intentionally to see breakthrough.

    3m5a2223_50

    No, not that the hand of God is manipulated through intense & fervent prayer; but that the Lord is passionate about one thing – PARTNERSHIP. The Lord reminded me of this mind-blowing Kingdom truth: He has placed such a weight of power & authority in our lives that until & unless we partake of God’s desires & ask that His will be done, we will not see the fulfillment of things we expect & hope for. How inconceivable it is to recognise that our obedience or lack of it has such a profound effect on the outcome of events & circumstances for those around us!

    “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, & stand in the gap
    before me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.

    Ezekiel 22:30

    God is not needy of us; but He desires partnership & wants us to be involved in His redemption story, and He searches for those who would agree with His heart. We carry godly authority – more than we think we do – to shift atmospheres, affect outcomes, heal the sick, break bondages, & simply call things into being. We can all press in to greater things when we partner with God in obedience.


    Ian Chew was part of Awaken Generation’s pioneer vocal stream batch & joined the team mid-2016 as the head of missions & media. Having always had a heart for missions, he yearns to see revival throughout the nations & serves actively in his church’s music ministry as a worship leader. Ian leads the team frequently in prayer, devotions & worship.

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Let It Sound Like – The Story Behind the EP

    letitsoundlike-fb-banner

    by Alarice


    Earlier this year, I wrote a song curiously named ‘I Have a Song’ – a prayerful longing of the heart that sought to bring deeper understanding of the truest form of worship – a surrendered heart of total obedience to God. It is not about the music or something that can be compartmentalized neatly into a service – worship in the rawest form is our unabandoned obedience to follow Jesus because we have been overwhelmed by the love He first showed us. The song posed a question beyond just a melody: What would our worship sound like?

    I believe that the songs written for this EP capture the facets of worship. Prodigal & Come Alive explore the depths of repentance & the need of the human heart for a Saviour.  He is Yahweh – the sound of high exaltation & praise in the presence of a Holy God. & finally, Where the Spirit, a joyous melody of the prisoner set free.

    Let it sound like
    A church alive
    Let it sound like
    Our faith on fire
    Let it sound like
    The song of heaven on earth 

    (I Have A Song – Awaken Generation)

    What do you hear when you listen for the deepest cry of worship?

    I hear the revival of the coldest of hearts, I hear the footsteps of a Father running to embrace His lost child, I hear the cries of a church alive & burning for Jesus, I hear hope for a dying world.

    We pray that as you listen to the songs of this worship EP by Awaken Generation, that you would be ushered into the deepest realms of worship, that it would spark a desire in you to live radically for the God who gave His all for you.


    You can now purchase Let It Sound Like on iTunes – a culmination of a year’s worth of prayer, songwriting & production work by the 2016 student cohort & the Awaken Generation Team. 

  • Blog
  • The Power of Dance

    11224390_1664441310480821_531994351471859291_o

    by Angel Lee


    Shall I let love and love let me
    Entrust to hands pure honesty
    Shall I arise though scarred my face
    To stand and dance without a trace
    Of fear.

    (Heather Clark)

    The body doesn’t lie; it cannot even if we tried. A subtle twitch of a muscle, a held breath, the gaze of the eyes. The body responds to any & every trigger honestly (just think about what your body does when someone scares you from behind), often failing to hide the very emotions we try to conceal.

    The power of dance is found in this honesty of the body to express. We were made to dance; we were created by a creative God to embody movement as part of the expression of our being. The body has the ability to communicate joy, pain, excitement, confusion & everything in between. It is able to create shapes, images & paint pictures like only the human body can. It stirs the imagination & brings the audience into another world altogether.

    The world understands the power of dance, so much so that it is used prolifically in most areas of society today – the education sector, commercial sector, entertainment sector & even just in communities (I really mean void decks & community centres). The world has an understanding of the impact & power of dance that the church at large seems to be unfamiliar with. When it comes to dance, I’ve seen churches fumble at how to even begin, how to educate their congregations & how to effectively use dance in ministry.

    I believe that dance opens up a new realm of worship & connecting with God in the Church. The potential of dance for evangelism, missions, praise & worship, intercession, visual enhancement & in the prophetic needs to be explored & tapped into. Dance in the world needs to be reclaimed for the glory of God. It was made by God, for God & for His Kingdom’s purpose.

    What would it look like for the church to send out mission teams that preach the Gospel through dance, breaking language barriers? What would it look like for services to be interlaced with prophetic dance to Scripture being read? What if dancers danced & healing took place? What if the Church raised up dancers, excellent in skill & heart, & sent them out to the professional dance industry? How then, would dance in the world look like?


    A worship & prophetic dancer, Angel will be joining us next year as a pioneer of Awaken Generation’s Dance Stream. She graduated from LASALLE college of the arts in 2013 with a BA(Hons) in Dance (First Class) specialising in contemporary dance. Her biggest dream is to see a group of technically excellent dancers minister across the nations with dance as its primary mode of sharing The Gospel. 

  • Blog
  • All About That Bass – An Interview with Raymond

    sundayshootwithag-128_1_25

    by The Awaken Generation Team


    Okay let’s start off with something easy. What was your journey like as a bassist?

    Oh I’m not really a bassist… I’m a keyboard player right? I started playing in church as a bassist when I was 12 or 13 because no one else wanted to play bass & I really hated it.

    Because it was boring?

    Yes, because it only had four strings & I only played one string at a time (laughs). But about four years ago, I started becoming very interested in bass.

    Why?

    It’s funny the way it started because it was a complete accident. There was a need for bassists in my church- then again, there’s always a need for bassists in churches. I was in a rehearsal & the worship leader suddenly asked me to play because the scheduled bassist pulled out last minute. So I tried & I sounded good because I understood the concept of bass guitar. I knew how to “lock” it. I never sat down & learnt it formally. I just applied music & band dynamic fundamentals that I already knew.

    What are some simple things that bassists miss out?

    Sometimes bassists miss the most bassic (pun-intended) things. They go straight to learning funky grooves or slapping without even knowing what to look out for in a band setting. For example, simple things like reinforcing the accents of the kick drum or paying attention to phrasing. I don’t blame them for not knowing these things because I think no one ever highlighted it to them.

    3m5a7688

    So why is AG introducing a bass stream next year?

    I think it’s really answering to that obvious need that churches have – the need for solid bassists who really take ownership of the role. Most of the time, people are just “assigned” to bass because maybe they can play guitar & there is no one else fulfilling that role. & so I think we wanted to start the bass stream to raise up bassists who TRULY understand music, who can use that instrument effectively & not just play notes. The church needs bassists who take the instrument seriously & who understand how crucial their role is.

    What can prospective students expect next year besides understanding their role as bassists?

    We’re going to explore band arrangement, playing techniques, chords & the relationship between chords so that they can fill-in properly. Also, I intend to teach bassists to lead through their instrument because I really believe that bass guitar has the power to change the dynamic in a song – you’re in charge of the harmonies! You can change the colour of the progression with just a simple inversion.

    Some people say that bass isn’t a very “creative” instrument. What do you have to say about that?

    What do you mean?! (fake angry face)

    I mean, people always say that oh, there’s so much space to create on a keyboard or a guitar but I see bassists play the first two strings & that’s it…

    No no, there is actually a lot of space. There is so much frequency to explore but you must know where & when. Inversions, pedal points, counter-melodies… Again, it comes back to knowing your instrument well & knowing what to look out for. For example, when I play with a drummer, I know they have different nuances in how they play their fills. So I try to figure them out & accent my groove accordingly to match them

    So what are the requirements to get into bass stream next year? It’s not that hard right?

    Ah, we are looking for people who can play the guitar just to make sure that they can do basic things like press a string, play some chords & be rooted rhythmically.

    Any last message to prospective students of AG Bass Stream next year?

    Hmmm…

    Maybe some lame bass jokes?

    Lame? Oh, you mean my high-level jokes? They are strictly for my students only, so you will have to enroll to hear them!


    Raymond Hernandez is the resident Keys & Guitar Mentor at Awaken Generation & soon-to-be Bass Mentor. Besides being a talented multi-instrumentalist & music director, he also enjoys creating excel spreadsheets & thinking up of “high-level jokes” to tell to his students every week.