Planning Center Review: Worship Planning and More

Planning Center Review: Worship Planning and More

Planning Center offers a suite of church management applications that are competitive with full solutions in the market. In particular, their Services and Registration applications are robust, effective options for churches that desire an advanced system for worship planning and complex events management.

Pros

  • Services is an outstanding worship planning application
  • Very robust Registrations application for managing complex events
  • You only need to purchase the specific applications you need
  • Mobile application for your congregation comes at no extra cost

Cons

  • Robust applications like Services and Registration, are complex and take a while to fully master
  • Customer support phone calls require advance scheduling
  • Purchasing only a few of their applications means you'll have to work with multiple vendors to manage your church
  • Giving app does not support pledges or campaigns

Editor's Rating

4.5/5.0

Planning Center Cost

Planning Center has divided its offering into eight distinct applications. When purchasing, you can decide to purchase any combination of these applications. You can also adjust the price for each application based upon the actual needs of your church. For example, the Check-Ins application is free up to 15 daily check-ins, up to $199/month for unlimited check-ins.

Planning Center recommends the following packages for churches of different sizes that want to purchase all eight applications:

  • Free Plan: $0
  • Small Church: $72/month
  • Medium Church: $244/month
  • Large Church: $644/month

Cancellation: Planning Center allows you to cancel at any time.

To see full pricing information for Planning Center, visit them here.

Table of Contents

Full Review: Planning Center

Planning Center was founded in 2006 and is based in Carlsbad, California. At that time, the company's founders worked in ministry and were surprised at how complicated worship planning was. They created Planning Center's first application, Services, to organize their own planning and began marketing it to other churches shortly thereafter. Today, the company has eight applications and has thousands of customers using at least one application, including 90 of the 100 largest churches in the United States. The Planning Center team is over 60 people today.

Planning Center offers eight distinct applications. This provides flexibility for churches that are interested in working with the company to solve only one specific need (e.g. services, giving, or event management), and churches that are in the market for a more complete suite of applications. While distinct, the systems do seem pretty well integrated. For example, individuals that you have added to the system are shared across all applications. It's also easy to switch from one application to another while in the system. All applications come with a helpful user guide for getting started, here's an example for the Services app. The company also offers a free, unified mobile app that houses almost all the public-facing content from each application.

After reviewing their applications, we feel that Planning Center's Services and Registrations applications are the strongest. Planning Center Services is the best point solution in the market for worship planning, and is affordably priced at $0-$199 per month depending on your number of users. We highly recommend this application for any church that wants to improve worship planning. The company's Registrations application for managing complex events also offers features that can handle an impressive amount of detail. At a system level, Planning Center is competitive with entry and mid-level church management systems that are a fit for small to mid-sized churches.

Applications & Key Features

Below, we'll discuss some of the key features of each Planning Center application, and how they would benefit your church. We have also included images to give you a sense of the look and feel of the software.

Services

Services is Planning Center's first and most popular application. The tool is built to allow you to lead powerful services with unified teams. It helps you schedule teams, communicate with your team members, and plan worship sets. Services is priced based upon the number of volunteers, team leads, and service planners using the app. Overall, the tool is user friendly and simplifies an otherwise highly complicated, recurring process.

To get started, you add a new service type by naming the service (e.g. Wednesday Night Service) and selecting how often it recurs. Then, you add times and the teams involved. Below is a look at the interface for specifying which teams are involved in each service type.

planning center services add teams

For each service, you are able to add sections, songs, notes and attachments. The Services app also streamlines your ability to schedule individuals from your teams to specific roles within each service. The system has a convenient feature that allows you to create and save reusable scheduling templates. For each service, the tool also displays any open positions along with team members who are available to fill them.

When someone is added to a schedule, they will receive an email and text notification. The email includes a service plan that includes the service date along with their role and hours. Your members can accept new positions directly in the email message. Reminder emails are also easy to set up and managed automatically by the Services application. Here's an example of a scheduling request email that a volunteer would receive:

planning center services scheduling request

Services is integrated with SongSelect, which makes it easy to access all your songs and chord charts in the application. Planning Center Services has its own iPhone and Android applications. With the app, each member can manage their schedule, accept or decline requests, select dates they are unavailable, and access music for rehearsal.

Check-Ins

The Check-Ins application can be used to manage your events and attendance. As you can see in the image below, it's easy to create new events in a few clicks with their assigned times and locations. The Check-Ins app also makes it easy to print labels, and schedule events at multiple campuses.

planning center adding an event

With Check-Ins, event attendance can be taken using any web-based device. This means your team can use their own smartphones to handle check-in. You can also set up kiosks where members use their phone number or barcode to check-in.

Registrations

Registrations is a robust application that you can use to create and manage complex events. Once created, you are able to share your event through your website, or you Church Center mobile app. Here's what an event looks like on an example website:

planning center event registration

A key feature in this application is the ability to accept payments through Stripe. As of June 2019, credit card processing costs $2.15 + 30 cents for US customers. Other valuable features of the Registrations application include:

  • Different attendee types
  • Limits on number of attendees by attendee type
  • Custom information from event attendees
  • Form completion during registration (e.g. medical release form)
  • Early bird discounts, coupons and group discounts
  • Email attendees with reminders and confirmations
  • View incomplete registrations
  • Cancel and restore registration
  • Assign attendees to specific groups (e.g. summer camp cabin assignment)
  • Integration with Check-Ins application for attendance

While the Registrations application is cleanly designed, it does come with a significant amount of functionality. It will take your team several weeks to become fluent with all the system's features, but should deliver a step-change in your ability to handle complex events.

Giving

In its full-featured administrator portal, Giving allows you to see historical donations, recurring donations, saved payment methods, and communications for each of your members. You are able to edit donations (e.g. changing the designated fund, issuing a refund), and log cash & check donations. You can also issue tax statements to your members. The system provides helpful reports on giving at your church. Here's an example view of the reporting dashboard within the Giving application:

planning center giving reporting dashboard

Donors are able to give using any web-connected device, including a newly-released mobile application. To give, a donor selects a fund, amount, frequency, and payment method. Credit card processing costs $2.15 + 30 cents for US customers. The system does allow recurring donations, which is a great way to boost giving at your church. In their profiles, donors can save credit card information to streamline future giving. Profiles also allow donors to edit contact and payment information, and to see a full donation history and statements.

Groups

The Groups application allows you to set up groups at your church, register new members, create events, take attendance, and share links to resources. You can also email all members of a group with one click. The system offers church-wide and group-level reporting. The application is very intuitive and has a relatively quick learning curve. Here's a look at the main Groups dashboard:

planning center groups dashboard

Your members can visit your website to see your church's groups and register for new groups. They are able to search for specific groups, and filter by other tags like location, and stage of life. Here is an example of what your members will see when looking for groups.

planning center groups

Resources

Planning Center resources is built to help you manage your facilities. You can add new rooms to the system in a few easy steps. The application also makes it easy to add room setup options and an inventory of your resources (e.g. AV systems, outdoor equipment, kitchen appliances). Here is a view of the system and, more specifically, what you see when you edit your resources:

planning center resources

Church Center

Church Center is a mobile application that your church congregation can use to control their profiles, join groups, give, and sign up for events. The company's goal is for this Church Center app to have all the public-facing content from their application suite. The mobile application is offered for free with your Planning Center subscription for both iPhone and Android. It is important to remember that you must purchase the actual Planning Center application to get this functionality in the mobile app. For example, if you do not purchase the Events application, your mobile app will not offer event sign up.

Is Planning Center right for you?

After reviewing their applications, we feel that Planning Center's Services and Registrations applications are the strongest. Planning Center Services is likely the best point solution in the market for worship planning, and is affordably priced at $0-$199 per month depending on your number of users. We highly recommend this application for any church that wants to improve worship planning. The company's Registrations application for managing complex events also offers features that can handle an impressive amount of detail. At a system level, Planning Center is competitive with entry and mid-level church management systems that are a fit for small to mid-sized churches. To test all of Planning Center's applications for free, visit Planning Center here.

Bruce Hogan

Bruce Hogan is Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit, a technology research firm that provides advice, information, and tools to help businesses thrive. Bruce has experience investing at multi-billion dollar private equity firms, leading teams at venture-backed Internet companies, and launching new businesses.