Planning Center Online

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I discovered Planning Center Online (PCO) several years ago. PCO is a an online worship service platform that allows the worship coordinators, audio visual team, song leaders, pastor and any other people in charge, to add worship service information. When "Wednesday" comes around, the bulletin secretary just has to go to PCO and see who's doing what and makes the bulletin. 

For those of who plan worship services on a weekly basis, we know there are many people involved, many emails that go back and forth, the group texts and the last minute questions. The bulletin secretary is asking about who's doing what. For many pastors, this responsibility has fallen on them for one reason or another. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have most information for the Sabbath worship service done ahead of time? Doesn't the bulletin secretary say, "I need all bulletin info by Wednesday"? Then Wednesday comes around and we're still scrambling. It could be an endless cycle. There must be a better way. I would say most churches have a good system in place. 

I discovered Planning Center Online (PCO) several years ago. PCO is a an online worship service platform that allows the worship coordinators, audio visual team, song leaders, pastor and any other people in charge, to add worship service information. When "Wednesday" comes around, the bulletin secretary just has to go to PCO and see who's doing what and makes the bulletin. 

It also informs each participant what they are to do. The details of what they are to say and do. The singers can put ahead of time the songs that they are going to sing. This allows the audio visual team to know which songs to make slides for. If you have a CCLI license you can actually import the songs into PCO for the AV person to know which stanzas are you going to sing or if you plan to sing it a little bit different. 

The preacher can upload his "PowerPoint," "ProPresenter," or "MediaShout" file up to PCO which allows the AV person to have it ahead of time. This avoids having to bring your flash drive and uploading things during Sabbath School.  

The screen below shows the number of templates setup and a little bit of information of the next couple of months. 

Once you select the week you're working on you proceed to fill out the information. 

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You can also look at it this way 

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I clicked on June 2 and this is what I see 

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There are many things that can be done here to make worship planning a lot easier. You can attach items for the AV Team to use like slides, background pictures, countdowns, videos, and anything else you would like for them to use. 

Under notes you can leave a special message for different groups. I left a general message saying what the sermon was about so that participants to keep that in mind in their selection of songs and in preparing for different parts of the service.  

There are many tutorials that can give you a very comprehensive way of using PCO’s “Services”. 

In addition to Worship Service Planning, PCO also offers other types of services for churches. Such as assigning volunteers, checking in of kids during Sabbath School, and a platform for online giving.  

So, how do you sign up? Go to planning.center(you can actually just type that in the address line of your browser). The longer address is www.planningcenteronline.com. If you’re just started I would suggest using the free service until you get the hang of it.

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It is limited to just 5 people, but that could be the pastor and 4 people who organize the weekly worship services. For many churches this may be all you need. For more than 5 people who look are involved in worship planning then you can sign up for the paid services. 

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Who should have access? 

The worship coordinator. This may usually be the elder in charge for that Sabbath. This person is the one who requests different people to participate in that service and puts their names in Planning Center. 

Music Director -The music director would put the names of the songs in PCO and the names of the singers. A cool feature that PCO does that really helps those creating slides for the songs is the ability to import songs from CCLI. If your church has a CCLI license (which it should) you can use Song Select by CCLI in PCO to select the songs that will be sung. This allows the audio visual people to know exactly what song you want to sing, the correct lyrics and all the stanzas. 

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The music director has the ability to also put the preferred order of the song/hymn by creating a “sequence” (V1, C, V2, C, V3, C, V4, C) like in the picture below. I selected here “In a Little While” for our opening song. Instead of doing a search online for lyrics PCO can do that for you.  

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You’ll see a list of songs that you’ve already imported. Just search for the one you are looking for. If it’s not in there then you search for a new song. 

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When the person doing the slides looks at this, he or she only has to click on the song and it’ll take them straight to the correct version of the song that was pre-selected by the music coordinator. 

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To top it off, if you use ProPresenteras your presentation software you can import the whole worship service from PCO for that particular week into ProPresenter. In the picture below you see the

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 you click there and select “New PCO Playlist" 

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It will give you a list of services that you have already set up in PCO and you choose the one for that particular Sabbath.

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You’ll see that the service got imported with all the same elements as in PCO.

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With all of this, the Audio Visual person in charge of slides could import the worship service once its ready. All the AV person would need to do would be to find slides for every section which could be dragged and dropped. ProPresenter can recognize songs that are already in its database and automatically select slides for a particular song. You’ll notice in the picture above that the song “His Glory Appears” was already in the database so it grabbed it and imported it. 

This article may not give justice to all that PCO can do. The best way is to go there and play with it for some time and then share it with your team. At first, those involved in worship planning may not be too keen on adding another layer of “difficulty” onto their preparation. Once they are able to capture the idea and see the benefits, they will get on board. It’s still a work in progress but it’s progress. 

Pedro Trinidad is pastor of the Concord International church in California