Should Decisions Be by Minority or Majority?

when everyone doesn’t agree, how do you make a decision?

We value unity. We believe in consensus. We have unanimity on every decision. We never make a decision unless everyone is in agreement.”

The way it’s been presented to me: it’s more spiritual to have consensus, every person agreeing on every decision, than to go with the majority when one or two hold a contrary view.

[tweetthis]It’s my observation each eldership has a majority or minority rule.[/tweetthis]

Either the group works with the judgment of the most — they make their choice on the wisdom of the majority — or they surrender to the opinion of the least. They have minority rule.

I’ve seen it in elderships of three, five, and seven. An issue has been discussed and debated. They’ve prayed and asked God for wisdom. Each man had an opportunity to express his views. They gave their reasons for and against the topic. Perhaps it’s been on the agenda for several meetings.

It’s time to make a decision. All but one says it’d be best for the church to move on this issue. One elder is set against the proposal and shows no sign of changing his mind. What happens next?

Let’s suppose we’re observing the eldership of seven. Here are some questions:

  1. Does one with the contrary view have more wisdom than the combined wisdom of the other six? Who arrived at that conclusion? Whose wisdom determined one person has better judgment than six other elders?
  2. Is it the same person each time? How long has he been setting or stalling the course of this church?
  3. What action is this one person starting or stopping by overruling the other six?
    1. Failing to send a missionary?
    2. Not starting a plan of outreach that might touch many people?
    3. Failing to provide more resources to carry out the mission of this congregation?
    4. Prohibiting making contact or continuing discipline for a wayward sheep?
  4. Who came up with the principle it’s more spiritual to let one or two elders set the direction of the church than to go with the majority of the eldership?

“But, we must have unity. We must speak as one to the congregation.”

I think there’s strength in a united voice in leading a group.

[tweetthis]Is it necessary for the majority to surrender to the minority to produce unity?[/tweetthis]

I read of a church with a rule to deal with this tension. When a matter came before the elders, they thoroughly discussed it. They presented reasons for and against the proposal. If they needed more research, they did it.

When they had all the information they needed to decide, they voted. If there were one or more in the minority, they immediately took another vote. According to their operating procedure, those in the minority could either vote with the majority, giving a consensus, or they could resign their position. Then when they stood before the congregation, they could honestly say, “Here is our decision and it was unanimous.” They had learned and applied the principle: not everyone gets his way, but everyone gets his say.

What have you seen with majority-minority rules in elders’ decisions?
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8 thoughts on “Should Decisions Be by Minority or Majority?

  1. In a large congregation with 15-20 elders, it is virtually impossible to achieve complete consensus on every issue. Ninety percent of the time, an issue before the elders requires no vote because you can feel that a consensus is there because no one openly objects to the tenor of the remarks being made. But in ten percent of the decisions to be made, sharp differences of opinion may arise, requiring an eventual vote.

    In these cases, it is dangerous to make a decision based on a simple majority, say 8-7. Take, for example, a decision to have a worship service that uses instrumental music. If the elders vote 8-7, it is quite likely that 5-7 elders may soon resign and leave the congregation, thereby creating a serious, if not bitter, rift.

    I know of congregations where the elders have bylaws that state no controversial decision will be made without a two-thirds majority of all the elders, not just the elders who happen to be at the meeting where a vote is taken. While this policy may not prevent the elders making an extremely controversial decision, it will, perhaps, prevent a major split of the congregation.

  2. It is good to think and agree on how to handle these issues. The best time to settle conflict is before conflict arises. The guidelines you relate are practical and wise. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I don’t think it’s a good idea to force elders who have an honest disagreement to automatically resign, but I also belief it is not a good idea to let a minority nay-sayer “rule the roost.” A requirement for a unanimous vote gives every member a veto. That can lead to more problems than it might solve.

  4. I had an elder say to me once, “These other five men are my elders.” When one realizes that as true it can always be said that this is a decision of the elders.

  5. I certainly agree with the logic(Majority/Minority rule?) of your discourse and makes sense especially in non-doctrinal matters. However one might take your analogy to apply in all conflict situations and believe there should be some middle ground especially when sound doctrinal Scriptures are asked to be compromised like addressed in Mat. 5:10;Acts 20:29,30; John 12::43,47. Thanks.

  6. I fail to understand why anyone would think it necessary for elders to resign if they are not willing to openly agree with the decision made by the majority of the elders. Voting “yes” when you really believe “no” is disingenuous at best. Disagreement does not have to mean disunity. I think the congregation would respect an eldership where for instance two of seven elders openly said they were not for the resolution, but they are still willing to support the consensus view. These of course is in matters of judgment. If an elder thinks a decision the other elder’s are making is unscriptural, then that’s when resignation may be in order. Church members are not dumb. They know that elders do not always agree. I think the congregation will respect an elder or eldership that can still function together even when there is disagreement.