Transitioning to Planning Center as a Church Management Software

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If you're switching from a different church management software or starting from scratch, 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 take the next steps.

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 https://planning.center to begin choosing the apps that fit your church best.

sign up button

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.

Look over the applications we offer and check the ones that you want to try.

pricing information
  1. You can optionally choose a preset plan that will populate the form with a plan that is typical for churches of your size.
  2. Select the apps that you want to try. If you choose a preset plan, you can deselect any apps that you don't want to try at this time.
  3. Select the left arrow to choose a lower-priced plan.
  4. Select the right arrow to choose a higher-priced plan.
  5. If you select Services, you can also select the optional Music Stand add-on.

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 the 30-day trial on your Applications Page.

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

account information

The email address and password you enter on this page is for you. Each person that has access to the account will receive their own login information.

Once you choose Start My 30-Day Trial, you'll be taken to a screen that shows all of the apps you've signed up for. To finish setting up the most important part of your account, open the People app and add your people.

There are multiple ways to add profiles to People. You can add profiles manually, by importing, or by asking people to fill out a form.

Add Profiles by Importing

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.

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-DDMM/DD/YYYYor MM.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.

Here are some additional tips for importing from specific ChMS.

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.

FellowshipOne

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 FellowshipOne, so make sure to request that data as far in advance as possible; however, others said to download the P9400 report, which has all the necessary database information.

The City

Export the user data from the main group to a CSV.

There isn't a social component to Planning Center yet, but keep your eye on Groups for updates!

Follow these steps to add people using a CSV file:

  1. Check your CSV file.
  2. Create custom fields in Planning Center.
  3. Import the CSV file into Planning Center.
1. Check Your CSV File

CSV files can be opened in any spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, Numbers, or Google Sheets. Many systems will generate CSV files with some unnecessary data in them, so 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.

Checking fields requires some knowledge of the spreadsheet program you're using. You'll need to bulk edit some of the fields in order to match the Accepted Answers and import information correctly.

If you do not want to import data into a particular field, exclude that column from the CSV. Leaving it blank, adding dashes, or typing N/A in that field will replace the existing data in People with blank information, a dash, or N/A. To keep information already entered in Planning Center, leave out the field entirely.

file example

Giving and attendance history are not importable. You may need to issue two end-of-year statements to your donors: one from your old system and one from Giving. 

Accepted Default Fields

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

If your Localization setting shows the date format in DD/MM/YYYY, follow that formatting instead of the MM/DD/YYYY.

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
Inactive Reason Moved, New Church, Deceased, Divorced, or custom
is case-sensitive
Marital Status Single, Married, Widowed, or custom
is case-sensitive
Membership Unassigned, Member, Attender, Guest, Outreach, 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; in addition, if you leave the field blank, any information already listed in your account will be overwritten with a blank.

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

2. Create Custom Fields in Planning Center

To create custom fields, go to the People tab, select 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.

In the Customize Fields page, the Personal tab holds different fields that 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 are exactly the same in Planning Center, and create 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 add custom tabs with new fields.

  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.
3. Import the CSV File Into Planning Center

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.

importing information

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, scroll to the bottom and select Preview Import to view 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.

import preview
  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.

completed import

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

For more information on importing a CSV file, see the Importing a CSV File in People article.

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 select Save to add the person to your database.

enter information

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 Our Apps

One example of how our apps can help your church is by helping you to plan, organize, and follow up after events.

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.

See the sections below to learn more about all of our applications.

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 Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android devices:
    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 Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

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 Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

Giving

People like to give in their own way: cash, check, credit card, bank transfer, Apple Pay, text message--any way they can think of! Our Giving app helps people give in their own way while you track those donations in the best way.

Giving Administrators have access to the dashboard, which shows them an overview of donations for the time frame of their choosing. They can count money in batches--and use a check reader to make it quicker. Then, they can have receipts automatically send to donors, and, when it's time, they can send giving statements with just a couple clicks.

Using a link from your website, donors can easily give to any fund and even see their giving history or set up recurring payments.

Check out the Giving Overview Video or Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

People

Your database is now full of people since you've already imported them! All their information is stored in People, and applicable information can be accessed through your other applications. Assign some people to be Administrators to help you manage the people in your database.

Lists will help you find people based on their activity in other apps or the information they have--or don't have--in their profile

Follow up with first time guests or those who want to volunteer by putting them in a workflow. The workflow will send notifications to assigned people, asking them to communicate with a person in the workflow. 

Check out the People Overview Video or Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

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 Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

Resources

Prevent double-bookings and conflicts by keeping track of when and how your facilities are being used. Help your Facilities Manager, Maintenance Crew, and Department Heads stay in the know!

Resources works based on the amount of information you put in it: if you add all your rooms and resources, event owners can easily request those items. 

Approval Groups and Conflict Resolvers decide which events have priority by approving requests for rooms and resources, and once events are approved, they can be displayed in calendars and on kiosks. Use a public tag in Resources to create a calendar to post on your website.

Check out the Resources Overview Video or Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

Services

Planning and scheduling services are much smoother when you can do it all from one place!

Using your church's current schedule, set up your first plan complete with service times and any other times your teams need to attend. Then, add all the information to your plan, including any songs or media you'll use during the service as well as transitional moments. Add notes for people to know how to keep the service on track.

Schedule any teams to that plan, putting them in specific positions, and assigning them to the appropriate times, then send them an email notifying them of their schedule.

When the time of your church service comes, follow the plan with a printed report or directly from your mobile device, where you can keep track of the time and communicate with others during that service.

Check out the Services Overview Video or Setting Up Guide for more information, and if you need any help along the way, click the ? in the app!

Music Stand

If you're subscribed to Services and are using digital chord and vocal charts, stop printing chord charts! Save paper and encourage team members to learn their music right from their mobile device.

Listen to the song and play it from the same device, making annotations to share with the team.

When your church service starts, use the metronome and link band members' devices together for them to follow along on the same page.

Check out the Music Stand Overview Video or the article on Setting Up a New Music Stand Account on iOS and Android, and if you need any help along the way, tap Help in the app!

Complete Your 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 Organization Administrators or Billing Managers.

Check out our Setting Up Guide for more information.

Welcome to the Planning Center family!

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