If you're switching from The City, we will get started with Planning Center by walking you through how to create an account and add people! We will also provide resources for how to choose which applications to start with first.
Bookmark this page, so it’s easy to find later.
Like other church management software (ChMS), we break down our pricing by people; however, unlike other ChMS, we won't ask you to sign up for features you won't use.
The first step to getting your church organized is to sign up for a Planning Center account. Click Sign Up on https://www.planningcenter.com/ to begin!
We recommend you only start with People.
The email address and password you enter on this page is for you. Each person you give access to the account will receive their own login information.
Set Up Your Account
You should have received an email welcoming you to Planning Center right after you signed up. If you set up your account at that time, great! If you didn’t finish the account setup or haven’t started, log in and go to Accounts to set up your account information.
Check out our guide on Setting Up a New Account, which will help you through the setup process. This process includes:
- 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!
Import from The City
We know importing can be overwhelming and scary, so our goal is to make sure it's comprehensive but simple for you to do! So, follow these steps to import people to Planning Center:
- Export from The City
Export the user data from the main group to a CSV.
- Clean Up Your CSV
Many systems will generate CSV files with some unnecessary data in them, so make sure everything is entered correctly before starting your import.
- Verify the Fields
Look over Planning Center's default fields, and create custom fields, such as schools and membership statuses, based on information you want to import.
- Import the File
Use the Data Importer to import the file into Planning Center.
Only people information can be imported into Planning Center. If you want other data to exist in your Planning Center database, you can use the following options:
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.
Here are some general tips:
- Reformat dates (birthdates, mainly) to match Planning Center date format that matches your Localization settings: YYYY-MM-DD, MM/DD/YYYY, or MM.DD.YYYY. If you don't have a year, simply leave it out.
- If you have any fields that don't match the default fields, create custom fields within Planning Center, and then match those field names to the CSV file.
- Some recommended breaking the CSV file into smaller pieces, but this depends on the number of people you're importing.
- If you break the CSV file into smaller pieces, most recommend exporting basic information first (first and last names, household IDs, contact information) and importing that information into People. Once this import is final, export the next important information to add to the profiles created in the "basic information" import.
- Your best friend in this process will be the “sort” feature in Microsoft Excel or Numbers, which allows you to separate out people by status, date last attended, etc.
The biggest tip specifically for The City is to export the user data from the main group to a CSV.
Subscribe to the Next Product
Planning Center is a full Church Management 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. Since you've imported your data into People, you now can start using it for other purposes, and then move on to the other products in the recommended order.
People is the hub of your Planning Center database. Any information you need on an individual is in their profile, and People holds all the profiles.
Here are some tasks you'll use People for on a regular basis:
Giving takes the longest for your congregation to adopt, so we recommend you set it up first.
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.
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.
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?
When you first subscribe to Check-Ins, you'll be walked through adding your first event.
If you used a different check-in system before, we recommend a slow rollout for your church. Choose one month to run both systems simultaneously, and ask people to check into both systems on the week that corresponds with their last name. Here's a format we've seen that works:
Week 1: A-F
Week 2: G-M
Week 3: N-R
Week 4: S-Z
Try to split the families as close to even as possible, and by the end of the month, you're ready to use Check-Ins on its own!
Services helps you schedule people and maintain an order of any service.
What if someone has already set up Services in our account?
Services is our oldest product, the one that started Planning Center! Many churches have used Services for their worship teams long before the church knew Planning Center was a Church Management Software.
If your church has been using Services, talk to the current Administrator to get familiar with how things are set up, and then follow the steps below.
What should I do in Services?
- Create a service type for your main service, and add your first plan.
If the service type already exists, you can manage new teams from the service type settings.
- Create teams and positions.
If the teams and positions already exist, talk to the team leader before making too many changes in order to keep any appropriate history.
- Add songs or media to use in your plans.
- Add team members to the account, and they will receive a guide based on their permission.
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.
Now that you have Church Center set up and customized, use Calendar to show your church-wide events as well as events taking place at your church.
What should I do in Calendar?
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?
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 milestones that will show your church is using Planning Center 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 downloaded 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.
We have plenty of help available to assist you along the way.
- For step-by-step instructions on setting up and using each product, access our help articles from the Support Site or from the ? in the upper right corner in any product.
- When you start 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!
Learn about each app with a one-hour training
Planning Center is made up of eight applications, and they all work together to make up one ChMS. Click this link to see our Co-Founder talk about how all the apps work together.