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What do you do when tragedy strikes your congregation, your neighborhood, or perhaps your entire community? No one likes to think about it, but the world can be a dangerous place.

The Centers for Diseace Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 150,000 people between the ages of 10 and 24 are treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries each year; 4,400 of these commit suicide. Further, the FBI reports that well over 1 million people in the U.S. were victims of violent crimes in 2010. That’s a lot of people in need of spiritual guidance and healing.

Foursquare pastors often are called on to minister to people facing devastating circumstances, ranging from those touching a few people, such as the unexpected and sudden death of a loved one, to those affecting large populations, such as natural disasters. But how equipped are church leaders for handling these situations?

Preparation of Foursquare ministers for ministry during such times is now an ongoing part of what Foursquare Chaplains International calls Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) training.

In January, 81 pastors and local church leaders joined Foursquare disaster relief chaplains and workers at Life Pacific College (also known as LIFE Bible College) in San Dimas, Calif., for a two-day intensive focused on equipping leaders to respond to individuals facing crisis situations.

Pastors, chaplains and lay ministers who participate in the CISM training gain a better understanding of the human soul when in crisis, according to Foursquare Chaplain Jay Donnelly. Jay is a disaster relief chaplain endorser who also serves as national coordinator of fire chaplains, chaplain representative to the Central Pacific District, and senior pastor of New Life Christian Center (Jackson Foursquare Church) in Sutter Creek, Calif.

Jay says the CISM training “provides insight on which intervention method is most appropriate for the situation, and establishes ways to stabilize a situation so that more effective ministry can take place.”

CISM training is an extension of the Disaster Relief Training (DRT) events held throughout the U.S. in 2011, and continuing into 2012. Foursquare Chaplains International Director Robby Booth says that the goal to equip some 800 Foursquare pastors and leaders to be FEMA-approved first responders became a reality last year through the DRT events.

The DRT prepared Foursquare Pastor Huey Hudson of Restoration (Huntsville Foursquare Church) in Madison, Ala., to lead his congregation in disaster response in April 2011. They were prepared to effectively minister in their community after 35 tornadoes ravaged the state and severely damaged or destroyed at least 300 homes within a 10-mile radius of the church.

Now the training is expanding to CISM events so Foursquare ministers will be ready to reach out to individuals facing natural disasters and other life-changing circumstances. Foursquare Chaplains International will also sponsor classes on group crisis intervention this year.

Jay believes this type of focused training has been stirring in the heart of the Foursquare movement for some time.

“Now we can offer specific training that lets people know what to do when disaster strikes,” he affirms.

More information about Foursquare Chaplains International and specific disaster relief training events, including registration forms, is available online.

By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles

is a freelance writer living in Long Beach, Calif.