When Pastor “Requests” a Certain Song

RE-POST: Here was one of our popular posts of 2013…

Got this question from a worship leader the other day about his pastor’s song request versus God’s leading him. Would you have advised this person differently? –Dwayne

My pastor had requested for us to do a song this past week. I had it on my original song list. However, as I was driving to worship practice I was praying. God said to me He wanted songs of surrender. So I changed the entire second half of the song list. I had to take out pastor’s request, for the sake of time. He was clearly upset after the service by what I’d done. How could I have handled this better?

Dear Worship Leader, here’s my advice to you:

When the pastor asks for a song, as far as you’re concerned, that IS God’s voice, speaking through him to you. Never go against the directive of your pastor, under any circumstances. He is your spiritual leader and boss. I know you meant nothing disrespectful by disregarding his request. You were simply trying to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit (which is commendable!) But next time you feel potentially led in a different direction than your pastor has requested of you, I strongly suggest the following steps:

1. Talk with him or her beforehand. Explain why you would like to change the song to something else.
2. Humbly ask him if he is OK with the change you want to make.
3. If he says yes, then go with it, and plan to do his request at a service in the near future if he still wants it.
4. If he says he really prefers you go ahead and do his song as requested, then joyfully submit and do it.
5. Trust God with the outcome either way. God will hold you responsible for following your pastor, and He’ll hold your pastor responsible for following Him.


  • Jan

    I had a situation that was a variation on this. I had a new pastor. EVERY week about two hours before rehearsal he’d give me songs he wanted me to to do this weekend. Never mind that I’d sent out the order and everyone had already prepared – and even worse, they were never songs on our master list. So even though I knew them personally, the band and vocalists may not and I never had a chart on hand so I’d be frantically rushing around doing that 10 minutes before each rehearsal. I talked to him and talked to him about just giving me some notice and heads up so I get do a good job getting the team ready but it never stopped. In this instance I felt this was hugely disrespectful to not only me, but our team. It put us in a horrible position. Pastors are not ALWAYS right, although in general I agree with this post. Sometimes they have things to learn as well…….

  • Dwayne

    Thanks for this great comment Jan! I agree with you that pastors are not always right, for sure. Talking with them about it; praying with them, even pointing out their error is all appropriate and needed within our scope of leadership as worship leaders. But at the end of the day, we still have to support them and follow their lead (unless what they are expecting of us is unscriptural or morally or ethically questionable, of course.)

  • Dudley

    The key to avoiding these problems is communication. Ask your pastor what he expects. In turn, if what he requests is not easily fulfilled, explain the process. He may have wrong understanding about music, or he may think you can do anything.

    At any rate, communicating will keep the emotions in check and minimize offense – both directions.

    When the pastor and worship leader are out of sync, the people are the ones who lose.

  • Dr Shirley Lynn

    First, how disrepectful of the man of God. God has placed him there and you are under his guideance not yours. This is a problem of rebellion and God does not honor that attitude.
    I am sure it wasn’t God talking to you telling you to disrepect YOUR pastor.

  • Ed Emmerling

    Thanks for the good word Dwayne. I agree. I would also say that the other situation shared a out always changing last minute is a different deal and needed addressing. I believe the Pastor is the Worship Leader. By the way I believed that when I was not the Pastor too.

  • BobbyG

    I had a similar experience – times 3. That’s right, my pastor asked me to lead the same set of songs three weeks in a row. When I asked his reasons, they weren’t particularly “spiritual” but mostly reflective of a different understanding of leadership. He even admitted he wouldn’t preach the same sermon three weeks in a row either. I told him I would be giving my best but I, as I said, asked questions to give him the opportunity to have and operate from a different perspective.

    All in all, we are under-shepherds and we are called to serve as unto the Lord.

    The rest, as they say, is God’s “problem.” 🙂

  • Next Level Worship

    Thanks for all the great input everyone! Wow Bobby, 3 times in a row. Now that’s a first for me. Never heard of that harming. Sounds like you handled it like a champ!

  • Scott L.

    Am I the only one who was alarmed by the statement made in step #1 of the original answer?…”Talk with him or her…” “HER”???…REALLY??…Let’s read 1Timothy 2 & Titus 1 & 2. If you disagree, then you disagree with Him…not me.

  • Ruth

    How utterly unnerving of that Worship pastor to assume that he had the reigns and the direction of the service in his hands — unless he sat in the chair beside the Pastor the entire week, studied and was led by God toward the message of the week, encountered the same hurting/rejoicing/seeking people in the congregation, was privy to every conversation and email of the ministry that week…you get where I’m going with this! Worship Leader – you are a tool to lead and assist in leading the worship…you need to sit down the Pastor and work through these issues, but you were REALLY OUT OF LINE!

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