Taking Song Requests?

This is a question especially for fellow worship leaders. I would love your feedback on this!

What do you do when you get requests for this or that hymn or praise song?

I’d love to hear anything you have to say about this topic, but some specific concerns I have are:

1. How do you respond to the person (as in a member of the congregation) requesting, particularly when you don’t want to give them a “yes” or “no”?

2. What about hymns/songs that don’t work corporately in worship, or that are theologically off? How do we approach this person (if needed) & let them know that the hymn/song is problematic, etc.?

7 thoughts on “Taking Song Requests?

  1. janowen

    Hey girl, first of all this doesn’t happen a ton to me but if someone asks for a song I always say “I am so glad God speaks to you through that song. I will keep that in mind as I prepare worship for our services.” Then I kind of divert them and just talk to them about what God is doing in their life – like a launching pad sort of. IF they ask for something not on our master song list I might say, “we don’t know that song or it’s not easy to worship to, etc.” and explain we can only have so many songs our band knows, etc. They are usually understanding. If they push then I just tell them the truth and assure them it’s something I pray about.

    Note that I am not trying to deceive them. I just don’t want to promise something I am not going to do. I do keep people’s requests in mind because it helps me see songs God may be using. These might just be some easier ways to answer than to say “sorry, i don’t take requests -only God tells me what songs to sing!” or something equally jerky sounding.

    I hope that makes sense. Email me if you have more questions.

  2. Billy Chia

    I encourage requests and frequently ask people what songs they like or think will work well in corporate worship. I thank people for their suggestions and don’t tell them “yes, or no.”

    I might ask the person what they like about the song or where they heard it to try to spark a story. I like to use the opportunities of song requests to make a connection with people and hear a little bit about who that person is.

  3. Jeff M. Miller

    I have to admit, and this is probably really bad, that I don’t respond in any way to song requests. I have a song request form that I print up and make available, but I never ever tell people their song will/will not show up. If it does make the set-list, then it’s like “congratulations, you won!”

    Why do I do it that way? Pretty much for the reasons you stated above. Either the song is just not singable, doesn’t fit what we’re doing, is theologically erroneous, or some other reason. I don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings by telling them what’s “wrong” with their song.

    Admittedly, I’ve been backed into a corner a few times and when I am, I’m then completely honest and transparent with them why their song didn’t make the cut. At that point, it may make them mad, but if they’re going to confront me directly with the issue I won’t hold back just to stroke somebody’s ego.

    I made somebody mad once when they requested “Gimme that Old Time Religion,” and I said I would never sing it, even on a Wednesday night where we mainly do that style of stuff. When asked why, I said “because our faith is about relationship not religion. That song is promoting a false doctrine, especially the ‘it will take us all to heaven’ line.” We talked about it some more, and they finally came to see if (mostly) my way, and they continue to request other songs.

  4. Paul Wilkinson

    Some of these requested songs work better in other meeting formats that take place at other times during the week and perhaps designed for specific, narrower demographics. Rarely do worship staff show up for these sort of things, but when they do make an appearance, the people in that group are thrilled. So sometimes, it’s just good PR to drop by those things sometime.

    Other old hymns are just waiting for someone — maybe you — to write an adaptation of them. Like “Wonderful Cross,” these songs often take on a life of their own with a change in chording or the addition of a bridge or a new tune altogether. It’s often worth the extra five seconds to try to think of some element of a song that could survive your weekly selection process, even if it’s just a single chorus or reading of a verse. (Check out the chorus sometime of “Living for Jesus;” the verses don’t work anymore but the chorus fits many kinds of worship sets; the verses are horizontal but the chorus is vertical. Cut and paste.)

  5. A. Post author

    Paul: Do you mean other meeting formats such as small groups? I totally agree with this. One reason I’m learning guitar is to be able to help facilitate worship when in small groups — it’s harder when you only sing (well, piano isn’t really easily movable…) & I love it when others come & add in this way to the time of prayer, worship & Bible study.

    Thanks, everyone, for your input! I appreciate it more than you know!

  6. janowen

    One thing I didn’t say is that I actually keep a list of songs people request – for specials or otherwise, since I plan all of that. It gives me a reference list. Some I will never do, but sometimes I see an opportunity. I just never, ever promise them I’ll do it unless it’s already planned. And I don’t do songs because someone requests it – only if it fits and I really feel it will work. I get more ideas for specials this way than worship songs.

    That said, I do pay close attention to what people seem to be moved by. I think that’s smart leading.

  7. Alastair Vance

    I think in a small group situation it can be ok to accept requests and play them then and there.

    For a normal service, I normally have my set-lists planned in advance. If a song is suggested for future service, I’ll look at the song and use it only if I feel it fits.

    If the pastor makes a request – then that is something else entirely. I do the song! ;-)


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