Does Filing for Bankruptcy Disqualify a Pastor?


Pastors work as servants to their congregation, and serve it in many ways. Spiritual counseling and pastoral care are two of the important functions of the office. In some cases, pastors must also give financial counseling. Good character is a critical qualification for a prospective pastor, as a pastor must be someone who the congregation can trust. To some, bankruptcy may cloud an otherwise well-qualified candidate.

Mainline Denominations

The requirements to be a pastor depend on a number of factors. Qualifications for a denominational or mainstream church pastors are often set by the denomination's governing body, and may have little room for movement. Most of these qualifications focus on training and education. Most also have certain moral standards that a candidate must meet. To some organizations, bankruptcy may be considered breaking a promise, which could present a moral problem.

Independent Congregations

Independent congregations may have criteria for selection of a pastor and look for different qualifications. The church's bylaws probably define the requirements carefully, but these bylaws may leave many of the factors in the decision up to the governing board or pulpit committee. Some smaller congregations and their boards may be less likely to look favorably on a bankruptcy, because they feel that it could tarnish the reputation of their church body. Others may look more toward the concept of forgiveness and restoration, and offer a candidate with a bankruptcy a second chance.


In some churches the pastor also serves as the chairman of the board and the chief operating officer. The pastor also may have the responsibility for operating within the budget set by the governing board overseeing the church. A church that has a pastor operating this way may want the pastor to have good experience managing money and his own finances. A bankruptcy may demonstrate that the candidate would have problems in this area, and may exclude a candidate from further consideration. This situation varies depending on the needs of the congregation.

Other Factors

The length of time that has passed since the bankruptcy may have a great deal to do with how a bankruptcy affects a candidates chances of becoming a pastor. As more time passes, the less influence the bankruptcy may have. The circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy may have an influence as well. A bankruptcy due to extreme medical bills may be looked at considerably different than one because a debtor had too much consumer debt.

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