One Elder and One Decoy …what do you do when you only have one man qualified to be an elder?

A few months ago I heard a new expression: “one elder and one decoy.”

A preacher friend was describing a situation in a congregation. Most of us have seen it. There were two elders. One of the elders moved, died, or became disabled. The church didn’t want to be without an eldership.

They searched and found a man who was a faithful Christian. He was able to teach. He set a good example as a follower of Jesus. He had a good home. He was concerned and cared for others. But there was one of the qualifications he didn’t have. Perhaps he had a child who was 10-12 years old who had not obeyed the gospel. Perhaps he had raised Christian children and they were still faithful years after obeying the gospel and his wife had died. He has faithful children but now he has no wife.

This church appointed the man who lacked one of the qualifications.

My friend described the situation, “They have one elder and one decoy.” I thought the description was colorful.

I’ve thought about it and discussed it with several friends.

Some questions:

  1. About everyone I talked with said that would not be scriptural. I understand. Now, what happens? They go to a men’s business meeting.
  2. Is a men’s business meeting scriptural?
  3. Would it be better to have a man or two serving with the unquestioned elder who have many of the spiritual qualities described in the Bible or to have a men’s business meeting where a thirteen-year-old boy and a drug addict who’d never heard of Jesus and His church until about a month ago and was baptized last week have the same vote as the former elder?
  4. If men missing a quality served as special leaders during this interim time, would it be wise to have scheduled, planned re-evaluations of this with the understanding when men become qualified, they will be appointed to replace the decoys?
  5. How often do you see a congregation with a lack of qualified leadership immediately start a plan to develop excellent leaders?
  6. How many congregations have an ongoing plan to train and mentor future leaders?

What would you do if you were in a congregation that had an elder and a decoy?

Had you rather have no elder and a men’s business meeting?

Which would be the best for the church?

How can we plan not to have that situation?

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

4 Responses to “One Elder and One Decoy …what do you do when you only have one man qualified to be an elder?

  • Jerry Stumpf
    2 years ago

    Many times, a congregation will still recognize the one Elder no matter which scenario happens next. If you have a “men’s business meeting“ you were still have people who look to the man who used to be an elder for lots of answers. I’m not speaking about leader ship Or being a mentor, I’ve seen congregations where one person sways the entire decision making process. Great question as always!

    • Jerry,

      Good observation.

      That also happens in an eldership where you have a “toxic” or “benevolent” head ealder.

  • Travis White
    2 years ago

    Please answer number 2 and if I can ask if it is scriptural to have congregational meetings (and if so, what should this look like?) Finally, please elaborate on how to carry out number 5 and 6. I’ve been struggling with all this for the last two or so years.

    • Travis,

      #2 I find nothing in the Bible about a Men’s Business Meeting. But things have to be handled.

      Congregational Meetings:
      1. What is the purpose? If it’s for communication, that needs to be clearly understood by the rules of the meeting. I’ve been in many congregations with elders that have congregational meetings for information. They clearly articulate that this isn’t an elders’ meeting. No decisions will be made during this meeting. This meeting is to give and receive information.
      2. If it is a congregation without elders, there should be guidelines to communicate and carry on the work of the church in the best way possible. Also, there should be a plan to develope leadership and recognize scriptural leadership as soon as possible.

      5. and 6.: please send me your email and I will share what I’ve done.

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