If you're switching from a different church management software, we will help you get started with Planning Center by walking you through how to create an account and add people!
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 People Data
Planning Center People allows you to import your list of people without paying any setup fee. If you need help migrating your data, check out these services.
We know importing can be overwhelming, so our goal is to make sure it's comprehensive but simple for you to do! So, follow these three steps to import people to Planning Center:
- 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:
Tips for Exporting Files 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.
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.
- 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.
Choose your ChMS to find some additional tips for importing.
- It could take 2-3 weeks to get data from FellowshipOne, so make sure to request that data in advance. You can also download either the X9400 or the P9400 v3.2report, which has all the necessary database information.
- Don't worry about the
remote_idfield, which isn't used in Planning Center.
- Export your attributes individually and add them to the spreadsheet by each exported column.
Include Inactive People
- Sort people by the Last Attended column, and then delete everyone on the list who has attended before the designated "inactive" date. Change the column title to Inactive and the cells to yes instead of the date.
- Create a custom field in People with Inactive as a yes or no question, and, after the import, create a list looking for people with that field.
- Perform an action to change the Membership Status toInactive.
This information was provided by a helpful user who recently made this transition.
- Click on reports.
- Type p9400, but choose v3.2 in the search window on the top right of the page.
- For all the group fields: Ignore This.
- For choose fields to display:
- Household Fields; Household ID and Home Phone
- Individual Fields; Select all fields
- Separated Email Columns? YES
- Separated Phone Columns? YES
- this1stAddress; Primary this will populate the next pull down
- these Fields for each Address; Select all except full address
- Choose an Output Type; Excel.
- Click Run Report.
- When the report is complete, download the file to your computer.
- Open in Excel and Save As a CSV file.
If more than one row is left for the headers, remove all rows that are column headers except for the first row.
- 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.
- Terminology shift: CCB's Groups are Planning Center's lists.
Export the user data from the main group to a CSV.
Use custom lists to do a full database export to a CSV. In this export, you can choose which columns to exclude.
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!
This system works well for most church sizes, but if you need help thinking through the rollout, reach out to our Support Team!
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!