Preparing to Use Planning Center with Your Staff

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So, you've decided to use Planning Center as your Church Management System! Now, it's time to get others on board and consider what information you need to prepare before you begin using products.

Planning Center is made to be easy enough for you to get started without this guide, so you can jump right into signing up if you're ready!

However, here is a process we recommend. You can treat this guide as an online coach that will guide you through the steps and help you get the most out of your Church Management System.

Once you've gone through these steps, it's time to learn about what Planning Center products do! Go to our Planning Center University page to find out how to start using the products you've signed up for!

Gather a Team

A new Church Management System will affect the processes of many people, and some will be very hesitant about making a change. You need to assemble a team that will help you learn what products you need and be able to show Planning Center to others.

Who Should Be on the Team?

Gather a team of staff and volunteers with these traits in mind:

  • Who will be most affected? These people lead people or do administrative tasks. Make sure each department is represented in some way to cover all the bases.

  • Who are your problem solvers? These people who typically take the lead, are interested in organization and technology, equip and champion others, even if they don't have a title.

What Does the Team Do?

Appoint an Implementation Leader, who will drive this process forward and keep the team accountable to deadlines and work. They need to have the approval of the Executive or Lead Pastor to make changes.

Attend regular implementation meetings. Team members will need to commit to presenting feedback and the results of the tasks they've been working on. The regularity of these meetings depends on how much time each teammate can spend on this project between meetings.

Identify Your Needs

Each church needs something different out of their Church Management System, and you need to define what your church needs so you can know what to expect.

What Does Your Church Need?

Do you want to make sure every kid who checks in gets a label? Do you need a place for musicians to access music? Do you want to make sure new people go through specific processes--and track what step they're on?

  1. Identify what you already do — the processes you have and will want to replicate/continue.

  2. Identify what you'd like to do — is there a process you'd like to begin but don't have the means to make it happen?

  3. Identify what you don't need to do anymore — for example, are you tracking information you're not using?

Once you've identified these things, prioritize those needs and assign them to different people on the team. That will help you take the next step in deciding which products to implement first.

Stuck on Moving Forward?

Some people become nervous about what they won't be able to do in Planning Center. We often get questions about importing giving and attendance, two features we don't import in bulk.

We have one question when people get "stuck" about moving forward with Planning Center and losing out on that historical data:

How do you currently use that data?

If you can answer that question, our Support Team can find a way to help you move forward in those tasks. However, if you don't currently use that data, this might be an opportunity to clean up your information. We can teach you how to use that data in Planning Center as it comes in.

What Do You Hope to Be Different?

Whether you're coming from another Church Management System or if you're starting from scratch, you need to have an expectation of what will change when you roll out Planning Center. Have each team member answer, "What do you hope to be different?" Those answers will guide conversations with other staff members and members of the congregation who may be concerned about making the change.

Define Your Vocabulary

Whether you know it or not, your church has its own vocabulary, and we want you to bring that language into your Planning Center database. Answer the questions below.

  • At what age would you consider a person an adult?

  • What are your membership statuses?

  • How do people move from one status to the next?

  • If multisite, how do you determine a person's primary campus?

Sign Up

Now that your team has outlined your needs and how to accomplish them, you're ready to sign up! Go to the Pricing Page and determine the pricing that would meet all of your needs.

If the amount on the Pricing Page is not an amount you can afford at this time, remember two things:

  1. You don't have to sign up for all the products! Remember: People is FREE!

  2. Every product has a 30-day free trial, so wait until you're definitely ready before you subscribe!

  3. Every product has a free level, so if you need to use it at a lower capacity, you can do that.

When you sign up, you'll gain access to People, our database system, and the product you choose. If you aren't sure which to start with, we recommend starting with Check-Ins.

If you’ve got a big team, you can divide and conquer, putting different people in charge of setting up different products. Or you can focus a little more and get a good handle on fewer things before adding on more. Use the information gathered from previous steps to help guide you.

Still not sure where to start?

Start with Check-Ins if:

  • You currently take attendance or print name tags.

  • You want more flexibility with your check-in process.

Start with Services if:

  • You currently have no way to communicate schedules to volunteers.

  • You want to schedule people and allow them to respond.

Start with Calendar if:

  • You currently have no way to request rooms or resources.

  • You want to track events in one place.

Start with Giving if:

  • You currently manually input all your donations.

  • You want a way to give online.

Start with Groups if:

  • You currently have small groups.

  • You want people to be able to access all your groups in one place.

Start with Registrations if:

  • You currently have events for people to attend.

  • You want people to sign up online.

Build Milestones

Create milestones that will show your church is using the Planning Center software the way you want to use it. Add deadlines to push milestones along and give you a reason to celebrate.

Here are a few milestone ideas:

  • All Staff have completed profiles

  • % of photos have been added to profiles

  • % of profiles have an email address

  • % of profiles have a phone number

Depending on the products you've chosen to use, you could use these milestones as well:

  • % of people gave online or through text

  • % of people using the Church Center app

  • All attendance is being taken in Check-Ins

  • First group leader to add their events

  • First event scheduled in Resources

  • First completed workflow

  • First order of service and scheduled people finalized in Services

  • First donor statement to be sent only through Giving

When you develop your milestones, make sure you think through the steps needed to get to those milestones and assign the actions to specific people.

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