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 choose which applications to start with first.

Learn about each app with a one-hour training

Planning Center is made up of seven 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.

Check out this video about getting your people into Planning Center, 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 you want to try by using our preset plans or by using the arrows to find a plan that fits your church.

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 Apps Page.

Once you've chosen the applications you want to try, add the 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.

Click Start My 30-Day Trial, and 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.

Add People
By Importing

Most churches already use some kind of system for keeping track of the members of their church. Whether it's another ChMS 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.

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 three steps to import people to Planning Center:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Import the File
    Use the Data Importer to import the file into Planning Center.

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. 

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.
    • 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.

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.
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!
FellowshipOne
  • 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 either the X9400 or the P9400 v3.2 report, which has all the necessary database information.
  • Don't worry about the remote_id field, which isn't used in Planning Center.
  • Export your attributes individually and add them to the spreadsheet by each exported column.

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 to Inactive.
Export Information to a CSV File

This information was provided by a helpful user who recently made this transition.

  1. Click on reports.
  2. Type p9400, but choose v3.2  in the search window on the top right of the page.
  3. For all the group fields: “Ignore This.”
  4. For choose fields to display:
    • Household Fields; “Household ID” and “Home Phone”
    • Individual Fields;  “Select all fields”
  5. Output:
    • Separated Email Columns? “YES”
    • Separated Phone Columns? “YES”
  6. Display:
    • this1stAddress; “Primary” this will populate the next pull down
    • these Fields for each Address; “Select all except full address”
  7. Choose an Output Type; “Excel.”
  8. Click “Run Report.”
  9. When the report is complete, download the file to your computer.
  10. 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.
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 add them on the People page!

When people who aren't in your database check in to an event, are scheduled to serve, fill out a form, join a group, give a donation or register for an event, their information is added to the People database.

Complete Your Account Information

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.

Explore Our Apps

One of the ways 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:

  • Ask people to register for the event with Registrations
  • Request a room for the event in Resources
  • Schedule volunteers to serve at the event in Services
    • Help musicians practice for the event with Music Stand Android & iOS
  • Set up stations for people to check in to the event through Check-Ins
  • Ask people to give an offering at the event through Giving
  • Help people sign up to attend a group after the event in Groups
  • Follow up with people who attended the event with People

Click the links to start setting up any of those applications--and use the 30-day free trial when you do!

Welcome to the Planning Center family!

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