Brand New to Planning Center

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Welcome to Planning Center!

Planning Center is a Church management (ChMS) software with an integrated suite of products designed to help you keep track of all of your church’s information from your computer or mobile device. 

This guide will help you through the Planning Center signup and setup process. 

Bookmark this page so that it’s easy to find later.

1. Sign up for People

We recommend that you start with the People product.

People is the central hub for Planning Center products and the place to add and access information for your entire congregation. Plus, it's always free!

To subscribe to People only, go to the signup page, remove all of the other products, and then click Sign up.

2. Set up your account

You should have received an email welcoming you to Planning Center right after you sign up. If you set up your account at that time, great! If you didn’t finish the account setup or haven’t started, this is the time to do it.

Accounts is the place for you to set up your account information. You will also go here to manage your Planning Center billing and subscriptions and add Organization Administrators.

The Setting Up a New Account article will help you through the setup process, which includes:

  • Accessing Accounts
  • Adding your organization information
  • Setting up billing information
  • Adding organization administrators and billing managers

When you’ve finished setting up your account, it’s now time to get your people added to the Planning Center database!

3. Add information to your database

After completing your account setup, the next step is to add data to People. The easiest way to add people’s information is to create an online form you can share with congregants that allows them to add their own information. 

Steps for creating a form to gather people's information

  1. Decide on the information you want to keep in a person's profile.
  2. Go to your profile to see what information is already allowed from the default fields.
  3. Create custom fields based on what information is not already a default field.
  4. Create a form to gather information on people.
Additional ways to add people's information

You might not get all of the information you need from people filling out a form, or you might already have the data in a format that you can easily import into people. Here are some other options for adding people's information to the database.

Only people information can be imported into Planning Center. If you want other data to exist in your Planning Center database, you have the following options:

4. Start using your products

After you've added people to your database, you can go to the Accounts Product page to start your free 30-day free trial for other products.

If you are logged out of your account, log in again, using the email address and password that you used to set up your account.

Once you're logged in, you can use the product switcher to switch between products that you're subscribed to.

We recommend that you try out one or two products at a time and get familiar with those before moving on to other products. The sections below are arranged in the order we recommend.

What is Church Center?

Church Center integrates with Planning Center products to enable your church members to manage their profile information, donations, events they've registered for, and groups they attend or lead. They can also view a church calendar or directory and fill out forms.

Church Center is not a separate product. It's set up in Accounts and is included with the cost of your product subscriptions, so it's available at no extra cost to you! For more information on Church Center, check out this Getting Started article.

People

Once you've added people to your Planning Center database, here are some things you'll use People for on a regular basis:

  • Follow up with people using workflows.
  • Create a list of people in order to text, email, or create a report.
  • Add notes to profiles in order to keep track of information.
  • Keep track of background checks.
  • Add other Administrators, who will receive a guide based on their permission.

For steps on how to do this things, check out our People Guide.

Giving

Giving takes the longest for your congregation to adopt, so we recommend you set it up after People.

Giving keeps all donation information, from cash and check to online donations. Anything that has to do with tax-related donations is tracked in Giving.

What should I do in Giving?

When you first subscribe to Giving, you'll be walked through steps to set it up.

  • Add other Administrators, who will receive a guide based on their permission. Not all Organization Administrators have access to Giving; any Administrator has to be added manually.
  • Create funds for people to designate their donations.
  • Share Church Center with your congregation, so people can begin giving online.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Giving Guide.

Encouraging your church members to use a new giving platform can be daunting. Here are some tips to make that process a bit smoother:

  • Give advance notice in multiple forms: email, text, social media, live announcements.
  • Make the transition process easy to understand.
  • Make yourself available to answer any questions and give assistance.

For steps on how to do this, check out our guide on Helping Donors Give Online.

Check-Ins

Many of your congregants will be checking in to attend a service. The best way to populate your database is to ask them to check themselves in, which allows you to track specific and general attendance.

What should I do in Check-Ins?

  • Create stations where people check in.
  • If you use printers, start setting those up.
  • Train volunteers on how to check people in.
  • Add other Administrators, who will receive a guide based on their permission.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Check-Ins Guide.

Services

Services helps you schedule people and maintain an order of any service.

What should I do in Services?

  1. Create a service type for your main service, and add your first plan.
  2. Create teams and positions.
  3. Add songs or media to use in your plans.
  4. Add team members to the account, and they will receive a guide based on their permission.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Services Guide.

Publishing

By now, your church is probably using Planning Center regularly. Now it's time to add Publishing!

Publishing is "home base" for your congregants. You can use Publishing to manage and customize Church Center where your congregants can access their contact information, donations, events, and much more.

You can use Publishing as your website; however, if you already have a website, Publishing is still great as church member portal. Try it out!

What should I do in Publishing?

  • Create a home page.
  • Customize the Navigation, so congregants can access specific information.
  • Add other Administrators, who will receive this guide.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Publishing Guide.

Calendar

Calendar shows the events taking place at your church. Your congregation can view them on Church Center.

What should I do in Calendar?

  • Add your facility's rooms and resources.
  • Add approval groups. These people manage requests for rooms and resources at your facility.
  • Create events that use your facility.
  • Add other Administrators, who will receive a guide based on their permission.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Calendar Guide.

Groups

Because classes and groups are connected through community, make sure your congregation is familiar with Church Center before you enable Groups.

Groups creates a place for people to gather, virtually or physically, and connect with each other.

What should I do in Groups?

  • Create group types to create default settings for similar groups.
  • Create life groups, classes, or private groups, like Elder Board.
  • Share Church Center with your congregation, so people can access your groups.
  • Add other Administrators, who will receive a guide based on their permission.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Groups Guide.

Registrations

The last step is a seasonal one. As you need people to register for events, you can use Registrations, which helps you gather information about people attending the events your church hosts.

What should I do in Registrations?

  • Create a signup for people to access in Church Center.
  • Assign a specific person as the manager of the signup.
  • Publish the signup page and share it with your congregation on Church Center.
  • Add other Administrators, who will receive a guide based on their permission.

For steps on how to do these things, check out our Registrations Guide.

Some products have guided setup wizards to help you along with your setup process. For other products, you can access the Getting Started guides for your product from the support site.

Need Help?

We have plenty of support available to help you along the way. 

  • Check out our help documentation for step-by-step instructions on setting up and using each product. You can access this documentation from the support site or from the ? in the upper right corner in any product.
  • Once you’ve started diving into a product and want more in-depth training on how to use it, check out Planning Center University, which has videos on best practices for each product.
  • If you have any questions that can’t be answered in our docs or videos, feel free to contact our friendly support team. They are happy to help!
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