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Planning Center as a Church Management Software

If you're switching from a different ChMS or starting from scratch, getting started with Planning Center is as easy as creating an account and adding people! We will walk you through how to do both and then help you find your next step!

Check out this video overview and then follow the detailed steps below.

 

Create an Account

The first step to getting your church organized is to sign up for a Planning Center account. Select SIGN UP on planning.center to begin choosing what fits your church best.

Like other ChMS, we break down pricing by people; however, unlike other ChMS, we won't ask you to sign up for features you won't use. Look over the applications we offer and check the ones you want to try.

You get a free 30-day trial of each app, so you don't have to try all of them at once; choose only the applications you want to try in the first 30 days. If you want to try other applications in the future, you can sign up for their 30-day trial on your Applications Page.

Once you've chosen the applications you want to try, add your account information to finish setting up your account then Select Start My 30-Day Trial to enable your account!

The email address and password you enter on this page is for you. Each person will receive their own login information.

Once you choose Start My 30-Day Trial, you'll be taken to a screen of all your apps. To finish setting up the most important parts of your account, choose to open People.

Add People

Most churches already use some kind of system for keeping track of the members of their church. Whether it's another Church Management Software or an Excel spreadsheet on someone's computer, you probably have a list of people somewhere that you'll want to bring along with you. Planning Center People allows you to import your list of people without paying any setup fee.

You can either import a CSV file with lots of people or add profiles manually.

Importing from Another ChMS

We asked current Planning Center users in our Slack Community, most of whom have already switched from another system, and they gave us lots of good tips, some for other specific systems:

  • Reformat dates (birthdates, mainly) to match Planning Center date format: YYYY-MM-DDMM/DD/YYYYMM.DD.YYYYIf you don't have a year, simply leave it out.
  • Some recommended breaking the CSV file into smaller pieces, but this depends on the number of people you're importing.

Church Community Builder

  • Use the Export Individuals CSV, which provides all people information. One person said they were only able to export 10 fields at a time, so setting up a spreadsheet to dump that information was the best way to get all the information.

Elexio

  • Use custom lists to do a full database export to a CSV. In this export, you can choose which columns to exclude.

Fellowship1

  • Don't worry about the remote_id field which isn't used in Planning Center.
  • Some churches have said it took 2-3 weeks to get data from Fellowship1, so request that data as far in advance as possible; however, others said to download the P9400 report, which has all the necessary database information.

Add Profiles by Importing

CSV files can be opened in any spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, Numbers (Apple), or Google Sheets. Many systems will generate CSV files with some unnecessary data in them, and it's a good idea to make sure everything looks okay before starting your import.

If you have a CSV file, the first step is to check the fields. Some fields are standard, or default, in Planning Center, and the ones that are not can be created as Custom Fields.

Giving and attendance history are not transferrable. You may need to issue two end-of-year statements to your donors: one from your old system and one from Giving. This article on Manually Importing Historical Donations will give you more information.

Accepted Default Fields

These default fields already exist in People. You can import all of this information without any additional work.

Accepted Fields Accepted Answers
Given Name Any Text
First Name Any Text
Nickname Any Text
Middle Name Any Text
Last Name Any Text
Birthdate any combination of:
YYYY-MM-DD
MM/DD/YYYY
MM.DD.YYYY
follow the formatting from your Accounts Localization Setting
Anniversary any combination of:
YYYY-MM-DD
MM/DD/YYYY
MM.DD.YYYY
follow the formatting from your Accounts Localization Setting
Medical Notes Any Text
Household ID names, numbers, or a combination of both
Household Primary Contact TRUE
only include next to Primary Contact; do not include False next to those who aren't
Grade -1 to 12 (where -1 is Pre-K, 0 is Kindergarten)
1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.
Pre, Kindergarten, Kinder, First, Second, Third, etc.
not case-sensitive
School Type Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, Other
School Name Must match school names exactly
Gender M/F
Male/Female
not case-sensitive
Child Y/N
Yes/No
True/False
1/0
not case-sensitive
Barcode Any Text
Status Active/Inactive
Marital Status Single, Married, Widowed, or custom
is case-sensitive
Membership Member, Regular Attender, Visitor, Participant, In Progress or custom
is case-sensitive
Inactive Reason Moved, New Church, Deceased, or custom
is case-sensitive
Name Prefix Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, Dr, Rev, or custom
is case-sensitive
Name Suffix Jr, Sr, Ph.D, I, III, or custom
is case-sensitive
Background Check Cleared Y/N
Yes/No
True/False
1/0
not case-sensitive
Background Check Date Completed any combination of:
YYYY-MM-DD
MM/DD/YYYY
MM.DD.YYYY
follow the formatting from your Accounts Localization Setting
Background Check Expires On any combination of:
YYYY-MM-DD
MM/DD/YYYY
MM.DD.YYYY
follow the formatting from your Accounts Localization Setting
Background Check Note Any Text
Home Email Any Text
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Work Email Any Text
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Other Email Any Text
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Home Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Work Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Mobile Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Pager Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Fax Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Skype Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Other Phone Number any length, with or without dashes
multiples can be separated by a semicolon (;)
Home Address Street Line 1 Any Text
Home Address Street Line 2 Any Text
Home Address City Any Text
Home Address State abbreviation or full name
Home Address Zip Code Any Text
Work Address Street Line 1 Any Text
Work Address Street Line 2 Any Text
Work Address City Any Text
Work Address State abbreviation or full name
Work Address Zip Code Any Text
Other Address Street Line 1 Any Text
Other Address Street Line 2 Any Text
Other Address City Any Text
Other Address State abbreviation or full name
Other Address Zip Code Any Text

Anything you put in a field will be imported, so if you don't have information on someone, you need to leave the space blank. Putting N/A in the field will result in your data reading as N/A. In addition, you will receive an error if you leave a blank column header.

If you need to import any information other than what is listed in the table above, you will need to first create a custom field.

1. Create Custom Fields

To create custom fields, go to the People tab, click the gear, and choose Customize Fields.

If this is your first time viewing the People tab, you'll see the option to import Social Profiles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Choose to Enable Auto-Import or Not Now to come back to it after importing.

The Personal tab holds different fields you can customize, before or after the import. Add schools, membership statuses, and much more. Make sure that for each field, any options that exist in your CSV also exist exactly the same in Planning Center, creating new options if necessary. For example, if you import schools, make sure to create options for every school exactly the same as in your CSV.

You can also enable Auto-Import from that tab.

  1. To create brand new fields, first create a tab to hold those fields. This tab will show up in the sidebar of every person's profile.
  2. Select New Field then type the name of the new field and choose what type of information you'd like to see in this field. Click Save once you're finished.
  3. If you need to edit or delete a field you created, click the appropriate button.
  4. After you've imported people, come back to this tab and choose who should be able to view this tab. If there's sensitive information needed to be shown only to a couple of people or a certain permission, you can specify at that time.
  5. A tab can only be deleted once the fields are all deleted.
Custom Field Formatting

As you're adding Custom Fields, ensure they are defined by the parameters in your table, so your information is added correctly.

Field Type Format
Text Any text up to 1,000 characters
Paragraph Any text up to 65,000 characters
Date MM/DD/YYYY
Dates in other formats will be ignored.
Yes/No yes/no
true/false
not case-sensitive
Dropdown Any existing option for the field must be an exact match of an existing option
case-sensitive
Checkboxes Any combination of existing values, separated by a |
The values must be an exact match of an existing option.
case-sensitive
Number Any number
File Bulk importing file fields in not currently supported.

2. Import CSV File

Now that you've created additional fields you might need, you're ready to import your CSV into those fields. Select the gear icon then select Import People.

On the Import Page, choose Start New Import and either drop the file in the box or choose it from your files. Once you've uploaded your file, you can begin matching the fields from your file with the fields in Planning Center.

Match the columns in your CSV file to the fields in People, so we put the information in the correct place.

  1. Know which step you've finished (green check), which you're on (green dots) and which steps are next (gray dots).
  2. Verify the fields match up with the correct column name from an example of what is listed in your CSV file.
  3. If you do not want to import a particular column, select Not Used.
  4. If you accidentally uploaded the wrong file or noticed from the examples that you missed some information, replace the CSV with the correct file.

Once you've verified each field, click Preview Import.

Now that your fields are correct, you can preview all the profiles to be added and see if you have any errors or identical profiles.

If you were already using some applications, you can also see which profiles will be updated by going to the Profiles to be updated tab.

  1. By default, all records in all tabs will be selected to be created or updated. If you do not want to update or create a particular record, uncheck the box next to their name. If you want to skip all the records in a tab, you can select Ignore All.
  2. You can download a CSV of all the records in a tab. If you have any errors in your file, download the CSV from the Errors list to make adjustments and re-import later. That CSV will help you easily nail down the errors and the incomplete data will not be imported to your account.

Select Finish Import to process your import and either update or create all profiles that were selected.

If you have a panic moment and think the CSV file isn't correct, or some of the information from the tabs isn't what you expected, you can undo the import.

  1. Choosing Undo This Import will not remove any new profiles that were created during the import; it will only remove information that was updated.
  2. If you want to completely reverse the import (including all the people that were created), you will need to email our support team by clicking the ?.
    Please include the following from your Import Page:
    • Name of the CSV file
    • Date of import
    • Time of import

We know importing can be overwhelming and scary, so our goal is to make sure it's comprehensive but simple for you to do! Now, that you're finished importing your people, go get that coffee you thought you were gonna get during the import!

Add Profiles Manually

If you don't have a CSV file of people to add, or if you want to add them one by one, you can do that!

On the People page, select Add Person then type their name in the Search box and choose Create a New Person.

Add the information then click Save to add the person to your database.

You can also add people to your database from a check-in station, when scheduling them as a volunteer, or when someone gives or registers for an event. When their information is added to those places, it is automatically added to the People database.

Explore Other Apps

Churches tend to do lots of events: Vacation Bible School, Women's Retreat, Youth Camp, Church Potluck, and even weekly Services. Our applications take those events and break them down into simple steps. You may not need every application to do an event, or you might use all of the applications for your event.

Here's a way people can use our applications for an event:

Whether you need all of these steps or only two of them, we've got you covered with our applications. Click the link to be taken to the corresponding application.

Check-Ins

Most first impressions happen when a parent checks their child into their class. We want that experience to be fast, friendly, and secure, so here are some features we use to ensure the best experience:

  • We have three different types of stations, accessible on any browser or iOS and Android device:
    1. Manned: a volunteer can type in a name to pull up the household.
    2. Self: a parent can use a phone number, barcode, or mobile pass to check in their child or children.
    3. Roster: a volunteer can check off attendance like a roll call sheet.
  • Our labels are customizable and can print from a station to a Dymo, Zebra, Citizen, or Brother Printer.
  • We show real-time updates when people check in, and those check-ins break down per time or room, allowing you to create a detailed report.
  • If you don't need specific names for attendance, you can track numbers by using Headcounts, which comes with any plan, even the free one.

Check out the Check-Ins Overview Video or Getting Started Article for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app and follow these steps!

Groups

Managing small groups with spreadsheets is a pain. Our Group management app is simple and flexible for your church to streamline how you organize, manage, and support your groups or classes.

Group Leaders and Administrators can manage group settings, post events, share files, and respond to people who request to join a group. Group Leaders can easily take attendance and receive a reminder email just before the event starts.

People can access groups from the Group Directory, which lists all the groups in group types and allows groups to be filtered based on their properties. Find out what kinds of groups there are and when and where groups meet from a Group Page.

Your Group Directory is created for you when you choose your subdomain at signup. We've even added some group types, properties, and groups for you to explore when you sign up!

Check out the Groups Overview Video or Getting Started Article for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app and follow these steps!

Giving

Set Your Subdomain

Assign Administrators

Select Currency

Connect to Stripe

Add Default Fund

People

Assign Permissions

Create a List to Move People to Inactive

Create First Time Guest Workflow

Registrations

Today's plans are tomorrow's events, and when you create an event, you can immediately make the event available for people to register!

When a person registers for an event, they can choose their attendee type as well as any other activity or item they'd like to add. Include questions and links to forms on the registration in order to get all the information you need for your event.

On the Admin side, manage payments by offering discounts and scholarships then assign people to specific teams or places to keep your attendees organized. Send balance and form reminder emails to ensure all people are ready to attend your event!

Check out the Registrations Overview Video or Getting Started Article for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app and follow these steps!

Resources

Add Rooms

Add Resources

Create Your First Event

Assign Approval Groups

Services

Choose Site Settings

Create a Service Type

Set Up Your First Plan

Create Teams & Positions

Schedule Your People

Choose Add-Ons

Music Stand
Projector

Add Account Information

If you've chosen to stick with Planning Center after your 30-day trial, finish adding your account information in order to fully complete your account. Include information such as main contact, campuses, and time zones to ensure the right information is communicated to your people.

In addition, set up billing information and add more Organization Administrators or Billing Managers.

Check out our Getting Started Article for more information.

Welcome to the Family!

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