Five Questions for Discerning Your Annual Giving Theme

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John Zehring and Kate Jagger describe five questions that can help you define a theme that can serve as an effective framework for your annual stewardship campaign. A well-chosen campaign theme, they say, can help make your annual focus on giving invigorating and spiritually uplifting.


Special offerings to aid individuals or communities in the wake of natural disasters or other crises often provide opportunities for churches to demonstrate their capacity for generosity and to measure the abundance within the congregation. Similarly, capital campaigns or special fund-raising efforts for one-time major expenses, such as fixing the organ or the roof, radiate an energy of their own. They are surrounded by hoopla, promotions, and celebrations, and everyone pulls together to reach the one-time goal, exclaiming, “We can do it!”

But what about the campaign for pledges to cover the church’s annual budget year after year? Fund-raising, even with a spiritual focus, can be a chore and downright drudgery. How can the energy of an annual campaign be sustained? It feels that as soon as you finish, it is time to prepare for the next year.

A well-chosen campaign theme can help make your annual focus on giving invigorating and spiritually uplifting.

The annual campaign provides an opportunity to tell stories, highlight your church’s strengths, use language that resonates with your congregation, and connect to the unique vision which God has called your church to pursue.

Five questions will help you define a theme that can serve as an effective framework for your campaign.

  1. What are the strengths of your church? Emphasize what your congregation does best, not its weaknesses or needs.
  1. What words resonate in your community of faith? Make a list of words or phrases that you think will speak to the values or goals of your congregation. Favor positive words. Avoid negative ones.
  1. What is God calling your church to be? This may be related to your presence and work in the community or world, or it may be focused on a particular spiritual emphasis.
  1. What idea or image will inspire members to grow in generosity? One church celebrating the arrival of a new pastor and the sense of renewed energy he brought to the congregation chose the image of a tree to represent their theme. The tree symbolized the spirit of growth they were experiencing as a community, the growth of programming and outreach they hoped would follow, and, of course, the growing generosity the campaign aimed to inspire.
  1. How might one or more of the previous answers be linked to a Bible verse? You do not need to use an entire verse; a key phrase from a verse may work as your theme. For example, from 2 Corinthians 9:5-8, “Every blessing in abundance.”

Excerpted from Beyond Stewardship: A Church Guide to Generous Giving Campaigns by John Zehring and Kate Jagger, copyright © 2016 by Judson Press. Used by permission of Judson Press. The book is available through Cokesbury or Amazon.

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About Author

John Zehring is a retired United Church of Christ pastor who has also served in higher education, primarily in development and institutional advancement. He is co-author with Kate Jagger of Beyond Stewardship: A Church Guide to Generous Giving Campaigns (Judson Press, 2016).

Kate Jagger

Kate Jagger is an experienced fundraiser who has chaired annual campaigns in churches and other charities. She is co-author with John Zehring of Beyond Stewardship: A Church Guide to Generous Giving Campaigns (Judson Press, 2016).


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