Without fail, someone always says “I don’t know if you take requests, but …”
We live in a time when everything is accessible within a few seconds. This means, in essence, the entire history of recorded music is pretty much at your fingertips.
For the worship minister, this can present a unique set of challenges and, possibly, tension with the congregation.
Music is powerful. It stirs the emotions in a good way. It’s also pretty subjective. What sounds beautiful to one listener can sound unbearable to another. The options are more or less endless.
In the midst of this cacophony of choices comes The Average Church-Goer with his or her request for your church to sing “The Best Song Ever.” This song means so much to them and may or may not induce tears for them.
What’s a worship leader to do?
Based on my experience, I’ve found these steps, which are not exhaustive, can help in these situations:
1) Listen to the person’s request. When I first began as a full-time worship minister, song requests were the thorn in my flesh that could not be removed. This was mostly due to my pride which was in the way of my service to the people God had put before me. *I* make the decisions around here, not you Average Church-Goer. However, as God removed my prideful act, I realized when I listened to the person’s song request, it didn’t take much time and helped me love the one who made the request.
2) Examine the lyrics before moving on to any other thought about the song. Is it Biblical? Does it glorify God or tell us how we feel about God? I’ve found many songs may sound like they are ‘worshipful’ but are merely a recitation of what we’re going to do for God and not what He has done for us through Jesus. Unfortunately, with the availability of popular songs and the mass marketing of music as ‘worship,’ these songs are plentiful. Resist the urge to include these at the expense of other songs which are Gospel-rich. You provide people with thoughts about God that they will take to their deathbeds. Don’t waste the opportunity.
3) Let the person know you will listen to the request and tell them briefly your process. Follow-up is a practical tool that is one of the most useful, yet overlooked, benefits in your role. The person making a request matters to God and should matter to you even if they request The Greatest CCM Hits of 1993 on a constant basis. I typically let people know that there are many songs to choose from and I must take the entire church body into account when I make a song selection.
4) Pray about your song choices before making them. You will either accept the person’s request or you will reject it. Sometimes, it’s an obvious choice (too hard to sing, easy to sing, bad lyrics, good lyrics, Gospel-drenched, Gospel-deficient, etc.). However, before you choose songs, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help you prepare songs that will put thoughts about God into your people’s minds and hearts. Worship Leader, this is no small task.
Ultimately, God’s glory in your selections should be more important than making someone happy that you’re covering the latest CCLI Top Ten in worship services. Your identity rests in the fact Jesus died for you to make you right before the Father, He rose again giving you the hope of eternal life in God’s Kingdom. That matters a great deal more than any person’s opinion of the job you’re doing. Rest in that.