Critical Incident Stress Management

CISM for congregations and schools

“The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the
Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” ( Is. 61:1).





The people of God face a variety of stressors daily, and in general, cope very well. From time to time crises occur in our congregations and schools that may affect some if not all of our members. By their very nature these incidents are unpredictable, short in duration and tend to have long-lasting emotional, psychological and spiritual effects and are therefore labeled critical incidents. There is strong evidence supporting Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to help staff, students and members cope with these situations.


The South Wisconsin CISM team consists of clergy, educators, and mental health professionals and peer support individuals drawn from congregations, schools, and agencies of our District. Team members receive ongoing education and special training in CISM and related areas. Some of them are also affiliated with local teams.


CISM Team members (l to r): Rev. William Wagner, Rev. Don Hackbarth, Rev. Jack Fish
Rev. Rick Boeck, Rev. Steve Thomas and Rev. Larry Myers
(not available for photo is Pres. John Wille)


A crisis will compromise the congregation’s or school’s ability to function, and in some cases may cause a significant drop in attendance and income. Critical incidents in the faith community are most commonly associated with, but not limited to:

  • The sudden and unexpected death of key leader or student
  • Life-threatening injury to leader or student
  • Suicide of leader or child
  • Damage to buildings because of fire, storm, or vandalism
  • Financial mismanagement
  • Clergy/staff sexual misconduct
  • Assaults, hate crimes, acts of terrorism and violence
  • Staff disharmony
  • Cases with excessive media attention


Crisis intervention is not therapy, nor a critique of the event. The goal is to help individuals to recover, and reestablish the congregation’s or school’s ability to function and focus on its mission. When meeting with individuals or groups, the team will:

  • Offer emotional and spiritual “first aid”
  • Attempt to control rumors and provide accurate information
  • Restore leadership’s ability to function
  • Teach stress management techniques
  • Make referrals for those profoundly or directly affected
  • Promote group cohesion


CISM team services are free to the schools and congregations of the South Wisconsin District. Team members are volunteers and are reimbursed for travel and expenses by the District. Congregations are free to make voluntary contributions supporting this ministry, but have no obligation to do so.


  • Preventive education program regarding critical incident stress and recognition of stress symptoms
  • Defusings (usually of 20 or less within 12 hours of the incident)
  • Debriefings (for groups within 24 to 72 hours of the incident)
  • One to one support (may occur at any time)
  • Referral and resource information


You may arrange for the services described in this brochure by contacting either of the following:

President John Wille
South Wisconsin District office
(414) 464-8100; (800) 793-3678

Rev. William Wagner
(608) 362-8755
(608) 756-5918 (cell)