Part of it is time-related. I feel like, “Yeah, sure, let me drop everything I’m doing and listen to this song that you like. I’ve got so much time and so little to do!”
Part of it is my personality. I tend toward independence and making decisions based on my experience and discoveries. I prefer to like music that I found on my own.
Often, it simply comes down to not wanting to be caught in an awkward situation.
Nevertheless, considering others’ song suggestions is a required part of the gig. Music in the Kingdom of God, after all, is inclusive, not exclusive.
So I’ve had to refine my response when people suggest songs.
When my first thought is, “Wow, that song is horrible, we would never consider using it,” I find something to value in it. That’s because the person matters, and valuing their connection with the musical art they love is so important.
Merriam-webster.com defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” Art comes down to skill, ideas, and feelings.
Good musical art will skillfully convey worthwhile ideas that inspire an emotional and intellectual response. True art moves us in a deeply personal way.
Accordingly, we hold our artistic preferences close to the core of our identity. When we experience great art, we want to share it with others. To have others appreciate it with us is deeply satisfying and affirms us as people. On the other hand, criticism of a work that we love can make us question, “What’s wrong with me that I like this?”
That’s why it is so important to value the person suggesting a song, even if you don’t value the song itself. As worship-leading musicians, we get deep satisfaction in creating art that also moves us to worship. But we have to remember that our art is not just for us – it’s for others, and it’s for Christ.
Here are four thoughts to consider when people request songs you don’t like:
1. Capture the heart of God toward the person, and let your response communicate honor and value.
2. Understand the value that person places on your opinion. As someone leading music from the front, what you think can carry a lot of weight.
3. Find something good to say about the song. Examples: “I really like the beat/melody/___ of that song,” or “I can see why you like it.”
4. If #3 is too difficult, you could ask what about the song make is meaningful for the person. Asking for a person’s thoughts could open up a valuable dialogue.
Always remember that the primary point of music in church is not artistic excellence, but the sweet fragrance of unified worship.
Grace and peace!
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you handle awkward song requests?