Planning Center Tips and Tricks with Aaron Stewart

Planning Center is used by over 30,000 churches worldwide, and for good reason: It is the most robust, easy-to-use software available for service planning and church database management. Aaron Stewart, the founder of Planning Center, started it as a frustrated worship leader looking for something to help manage his teams and his song sets. Today, the software can do much more than that and is helping thousands of worship leaders just like you do their job with less headache and hassle. In this month’s episode, I talk with Aaron about some leadership lessons he learned while building his company, and some little-known tips,  tricks, and hacks to get the most out of using Planning Center. If you use Planning Center for your services (or if you’re curious about what it can do for you), you’ll definitely want to listen to this episode.


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Alex Enfiedjian 00:11 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast. This is Alex Enfiedjian. Your host, just wanted to say thank you for being a listener of the podcast, I hope that everything we put out is helpful and practical and actually, is something that you can use in your ministry on a week by week basis. That’s the goal. And so thanks for letting me be a part of your life and of your ministry, I counted a privilege. Today I have the privilege of talking with Aaron Stewart, who is the co founder of Planning Center, and all of the apps that they have. And we talk a little bit about how Planning Center started and some leadership lessons he learned along the way of building one of the biggest software companies in the church space. But then we move into more practical tips tricks, and how to get the most out of using Planning Center. And Planning Center is our recommended product of the month that just happened to work out that way, Planning Center, like you will hear in this episode. And I won’t promote too much here. But it’s amazing. I mean, it’s an incredible piece of software that literally makes my life and the life of 1000s of worship leaders easier and less of a headache to plan our services to schedule songs. And I will save some of the features for the actual interview. But Planning Center is our recommended product this month, you can check it out for free for 30 days. And if you have a small team, you can use it for free forever. But you can find out all this information at planning dot Center planning dot center, check it out. It’s awesome. So as we get into this interview with Aaron, he’s gonna give us a lot of tips, tricks, and ways that we can set up Planning Center to get the most out of it. But I’m gonna put some links in the show notes as well for you guys so that you can watch some tutorials. And also at the end of the interview, I might add a couple extra tips, tricks and hacks that I’ve learned over the years using Planning Center. So stick around to the end of the episode. And let’s jump right into today’s interview with Aaron Stewart.

Alex Enfiedjian 02:09 Hey, everyone, I am here with Aaron Stewart, who is one of the co founders of Planning Center. Aaron, thank you so much for being on the podcast. You’re welcome. Glad to be here. Aaron, before we get started into the interview, I just wanted to say thank you for creating an incredible product. I mean, this product has saved me so much time. And I know our listeners who use it have been super blessed by Planning Center. And I was even thinking before we hit record like I wonder what kind of eternal impact Planning Center has had on the world. Like when we get to heaven. I think all the time you freed up for worship leaders and all the ways you’ve helped services happen, I think you are going to be like blown away by what God did through your software company. So again, thank you so much. It’s amazing. You’re welcome. That’s it’s kind of humbling. It was very humbling, actually. But very cool to hear. Yes, no, I’m sure. So, you know, we’re talking about planning centers, specifically, you know, for worship leaders, Planning Center services is kind of where we live. And you’re the co founder of this thing you’ve kind of dreamt it up birthed it and have carried it through the years to its current form, I thought it would be really wise to have you on the podcast to describe to us the best way we can use Planning Center and how we can get the most out of it. But before we talk practical tips and tricks and using Planning Center, I thought it would be wise to ask you some leadership questions because again, you’ve you know, maybe accidentally created one of the biggest church software companies in the world. So it would be foolish to have you on and not actually ask you some leadership lessons that you’ve learned along the way. So I guess first of all, like, how did planning centers start? Like why and how was it birth?

Aaron Stewart 03:53 Yeah, the first thing I can say is the best leadership lesson that I’ve learned is partner with somebody who knows what they’re doing, because I’m the co founder, but my friend, Jeff Berg, he’s the other co founder and the owner. And he is the one that is steering this company’s ship for sure. And I learned just like a billion things from him. I’ve been there along with them helping and so at the beginning, the way this started was he and I were both on staff at a church in the Palm Springs area of California. And I was the music director and he was directing graphics and web. And it was a fairly big church of about three to 4000. And I was in charge of a worship team, a couple of worship teams, and we also had a choir and sometimes an orchestra and a couple of different venues and a lot of so there’s a lot of organization and even when I came to that church, they were already very organized, but they were using Excel to kind of do a lot of that stuff and I’ve always been really organized. So on the worship team, I use Microsoft Access. And I like figured out how to do a database. And I made this database that like, I could put all my songs in, and then I could put the people in. And then I could know these people saying these songs. And and when I did this, and I had this, oh, man, I just loved it so much, and which is funny compared to what we can do now. But this was awesome. And Jeff saw that he was actually working with some other people in the same Creative Arts Department. And he had made some software for them anyway. So then I realized that our church was, before I got there, they were printing out these music packets and burning CDs. And even sometimes someone was like driving them to people’s houses. And I saw this and I was like, No, I will not be continuing to do this. There has to be a better way to do that. And, and honestly, part of the reason you have to do that is when you don’t plan things out early enough, then what if I have the music ready on Thursday before Sunday, then yes, somebody does have to drive into somebody’s house, because you can’t expect them to come here. So he helped me figure out Jeff helped me figure out how to get the music onto a website, but we had to, like create it from scratch almost every week. So at a certain point, I was doing that every week, he was helping some other people. And he said, hey, what if we combined all this stuff, so we decided to combine it and he was gonna make it an app, actually, fun fact, Planning Center like version, pre version one or whatever was just going to be a Windows application. That’s what he was, like, expert in at the time. And this was in 2006. And like, Facebook was not even really a thing. It was just kind of new, and like using applications on the web was not a thing. But he heard about it. And I was like, Hey, we could probably build this on the web, so that your musicians could get to it, and you could get to it. And at the same time, he found out I was moving to another church who used Mac’s instead of PC. So it was like, we’ve got to do something anyway. So that was kind of like the birth. And then fast forward, he worked nine months, kind of in his free time building the first version of Planning Center and in 2007. In June, we released it at Saddleback purpose driven worship conference here in California. And, I mean, I have a degree in music from Azusa Pacific University, and I’ve got lots of professional worship leader friends all over the country. And I knew that people would like this and be able to use it. Um, I had a feeling it would be somewhat successful. But I can tell you, in no universe did I think that it would, I don’t know, lead us to where we are today.

Alex Enfiedjian 07:38 That’s crazy, man. I mean, it’s awesome to see like, God was like, I’m using you in a local church. But I have a much bigger plan, I’m going to use you to serve 30,000 local churches, which, and like I said, at the beginning, you are making 30,000 local churches lives easier. And great is your reward in heaven, my friend.

Aaron Stewart 07:58 Thank you. Well, and by the way, you’ve done some good research to find the 30,000. But I can give you like it’s 33,000, since you’ve actually read that thing, not like we really care that much about numbers, but it’s crazy. You should care.

Alex Enfiedjian 08:11 So okay, so what would you say then, like, this is kind of mind blowing for you? What would you say has led to its massive growth over the years? Like, what are two or three things that you attribute to Planning Center being so successful? Oh,

Aaron Stewart 08:27 I love this question. Okay. Honestly, if I were to boil it down to like the core, I would say, a passion for doing what you’re doing, and building something that you would want to use. So because Jeff and I were both working full time in a church, and I’ve worked at a couple of churches that I already had uncertainty, a passion for just being organized. And we’re using technology to help organize it. So. So it’s not one of these, like, you see, so many of these, like new startup companies that start some companies specific, they’re just looking for an idea to make a whole bunch of money and cash out and sell to somebody else. And that was never our story. Our story was birthed out of, we just wanted to do our own ministry better. So we had that passion for really doing that. But then even as time went on, like even as we make decisions for Planning Center, the company, not just the company, but even the app, we do things that we would want to use, for instance, like putting ads in your app, like, I get a lot of calls and emails from like, record labels and publishers and they know how many people are in Planning Center and they would love to like, have their content featured and their content is good is it’s not about that. But for me, I’m like I’m logging into the site to get my job done. I don’t want to be distracted by all these other things. We like we really want to help people and I think I think that’s evident, least after people say, I think they say that. And then because of that, then they tell their friends, you should use Planning Center because of x. And it’s not some like master like grand strategy that we did to like try to trick people and be like our customer support, they know, they can tell people, you probably shouldn’t use Planning Center, it’s not right for you, you know, we’re not just looking for sales, we’re looking to help people do their job better. And when we can do that, which is most of the time, then it’s fun to be able to figure out how to do that. So I think those are some of the key reasons we’ve been as successful as we are.

Alex Enfiedjian 10:35 Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, there’s a bunch of stuff in there that you said, like, one of the things that is encouraging is like, it’s a heart of service, like you truly want to make something that that you would use, and you’re not trying to make a buck, you’re just trying to make something helpful. And because you’re putting other people’s needs before making a buck, then it actually is a useful product for people. So that’s, that’s cool. The other thing is, like, you’re crystal clear on what you’re trying to accomplish. So you’re like, you know, as someone who has a podcast, I get people who are like, hey, like, we want to be on your podcast, or we, you know, we’ll pay you to feature this product. I’m like, No, I’m gonna protect my listeners from Yeah, product, because I don’t believe in that product. Yeah, and I love hearing that from you. And it’s encouraging to me to stick the course, like, I want to make a podcast that I would listen to, and you want to make a product that you would use. And that ends up ministering to people who are like you or like me. So I think that’s really cool. So basically, if I had to boil it down to a word, its integrity, you guys are like, we want to be true to what we feel called to do. And God is blessing that, you know, you’re not you’re not selling out, right? Correct. Yeah.

Aaron Stewart 11:45 And that’s easy to do in some ways. And it’s like, super hard to do. And otherwise, like, I mean, it’s hard for me to do interviews like this and talk to people at conferences, because like, as a representative of the company, it’s like, well, of course, you’re gonna say you don’t care about money. And of course, you’re gonna say your product is awesome. And I’m like, I know you don’t like have to believe me. But I’m gonna say it anyway, because it’s true.

Alex Enfiedjian 12:05 Yeah. That’s so good. Now, one more leadership question before we shift gears into like actually using the product, but like, you started with you and Jeff, right, Jeff says, name. So you and Jeff started this thing, the two of you. And as God has multiplied your ministry, you have had to build a team to support the need. So like, what did that look like? Because all of us who are listening, have teams, and we build teams, or we’re hopefully building teams, like, how did you guys build teams, and add the right people at the right time? And what were some of the most important lessons that you learned when building your team? Oh,

Aaron Stewart 12:44 another really good question. You know, these are the things as a music major, I never thought that I would be thinking about it in my life. But now, I’ve learned so much about this stuff, it’s actually like kind of fun to get to share it. Because I didn’t know anything about this. I absorbed most of it. But so at the beginning, we stayed small for a long time, like I’m talking to you who’s in the church world. I also talked to lots of people who are in like the software sort of startup world. And so what I say to those people is, you see all of these software companies, and they get these companies that will come and like invest millions of dollars into a software company, and then they’ve got to grow, and they’ve got to do something with this money. And that was never what we wanted to do. We always wanted slow, sustainable growth. And Jeff was also a very big believer in no debt. So other than at the very beginning, we took out $10,000 to get into the first conference and for some marketing things, and sent other than that first $10,000, we never went into debt for anything that we’ve done since then. So it was always do we have the money to do this, and the money would come in and be like, okay, now we can afford to hire this person. And so it wasn’t just money, we also waited until there was a clear need. So when you’re small at the beginning, everybody’s doing lots of different things, you know, development and customer support, and interviews and marketing and whatever. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, you know what, I’m spending more than 50% of my time on customer support. Now, we need to hire a customer support person, where you can start to look at what other people are doing a little bit too soon, and make decisions based on what you think things should be. Rather than evaluating what you should do. And I see this with worship leaders all the time, actually. Because I go to a lot of worship conferences. I see worship leaders that go to a worship conference, see this big concert environment and all this stuff that works sometimes just for that church, sometimes just for that church, like in the context of a conference, and they’ll go home and try to like implement all these things that they saw other people doing without figuring like Does this help me get to the next place that I should be going? And so that’s something that we’ve always been pretty good at here is never doing something just because we were supposed to do it, or this is what a company does, like, we just okay, it’s been 11 years, almost well, and we just have someone that is in charge of marketing for us, like, as of six months ago, like this is something that we needed a long time ago. And we just have lots of random people do it. But, man, do I ramble or what? Like, I look and I’m like, I’ve been talking for like, 10 minutes, but I guess that’s why you’re

Alex Enfiedjian 15:32 here. podcast interview, they hear me talk enough. So that’s why I like to let my guests talk.

Aaron Stewart 15:38 Yeah. Anyway, so. So growing the team, honestly, that changes for us every six months, like what the next thing we need, like right now, I’ll tell you what we’re trying to do is now Planning Center has made the shift from one app. And now we’re this whole church management software company, and we’ve got seven different apps. And our goal over the last couple of years, first of all, is just get those out. But now, it’s building up dedicated teams around each one of them. But that’s a new thing as of like six months ago, is that we’re always evaluating, like, what are the challenges we’re having right now? And what can we do to help alleviate these challenges? Hmm,

Alex Enfiedjian 16:21 that’s good. You guys are I don’t want to call you reactive, but you’re not hasty. You’re not moving ahead. Too fast. You’re you’re being slow to make decisions. And then you’re deciding, like, what do we need to hire right now? Yeah. And that’s something that I’m finding is very important. As I’m building my ministry at my new church, it’s like, okay, we have somebody who’s over this, but we’re lacking someone who’s over this, or how do we build up the youth band, we need to put a strong leader over the youth band, okay, we got that. But now, the college band or group needs a strong leader, so that we have stepping stones, you know, all the way through. So it’s like, it’s evaluating the key positions. And then, like you said, recognizing where there’s a need, and then putting the right person in place. And we could I’m sure, we could talk forever about how to find the right person. But I know you have another meeting to get to. So I don’t want to take all your time. But maybe one day, we could talk about how do you find the right person for your team? Because that’s, that’s a huge thing. But let’s, let’s shift gears, those are some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned. let’s shift gears and talk specifically about the product services, because that’s what most of our listeners are using. So if some of our listeners haven’t heard about Planning Center, what does Planning Center services do? And what are some of the main benefits of using it?

Aaron Stewart 17:41 Yeah, Planning Center services is our app that helps you plan every aspect of your worship service, like what songs are going to do the items, all that kind of stuff. It gives rehearsal tools to your musicians, it helps you organize your songs library. And that’s just the stuff that does for the worship team. And that’s a common misconception is that it’s just for the worship team. But churches all over the place, use it for scheduling of any volunteers. So it can do all your volunteer scheduling for the whole church. But it just has a couple of extra things in there. Well, quite a few extra things in there for the musicians that want to use that.

Alex Enfiedjian 18:20 Yeah, I mean, it’s so robust that I feel like we will definitely run out of time talking about what it can do. So maybe talk to us a little bit about like some of the little known features of Planning Center services that would be helpful for our listeners to know about.

Aaron Stewart 18:33 Absolutely. Okay, so one of the things that we’ve done for a long time, is transpose chord charts and transpose mp3 audio files. Now, for people that do it. He’s like, Well, yeah, this is like the number one thing I do, but you wouldn’t believe how many people just have no idea that they can do that with Planning Center. So just to be clear, when you go to your song arrangement page, there’s a button right where you add files, there’s a button that says lyrics and chords, and you can go in there and you can type out your own chord chart with the chords. And then you or any member of your team can download that chord chart in any key that you want to in the Nashville number system, with only the lyrics and the chords all stripped out. In addition, if you upload mp3 files, or mp3 files, there’s a button to actually transpose the audio file into whatever key you’re going to do it because I’ve heard once or twice that some of the recorded worship music might be a little bit high for some people to sing. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve heard that before. But anyway, so people are very anxious to be able to put the song in the key they’re going to do it in so that people can play along with it, sing along with it, rehearse it in the right key. So that is probably one of the number one things that I tell people about, but at the same time, it’s also a lot easier to find on the new version of the songs page. So that’s One of them. And let’s see other little known features. Um, there are shortcut keys everywhere. I love this one, I want to do things as fast as possible. And especially when you’re in a plan and you’re like building your order of service, having to constantly move your mouse to like add an item and then add a song and then add whatever, you don’t have to do that there are shortcut keys on the plans page. So you can actually just hit the first letter of whatever it is that you want to do on your keyboard, and it will get you there fast. So if you want to add a song, you hit s on your keyboard and add a song thing comes up. So you can actually put your entire setlist together with the notes with the details with everything, mostly by just doing it on your keyboard really fast. And all of our new pages also have keyboard shortcuts on them as well to make things a lot faster. Like for instance, deleting files, if you want to delete a file or archive a team or things like that, you can usually hover your mouse over it, and just hit the x on your keyboard. And on any of those new pages, if you want to see a list of the shortcut keys, when you’re on the page, just type the question mark just anywhere while you’re on the page and a box will pop up that shows you all the shortcut keys for that page.

Alex Enfiedjian 21:12 That’s huge. Yeah, I got to start using that because I don’t I think another couple of features that I’m thinking about that I’ve actually never used is like the families grouping thing. So if you have two people on your team who are related, you can like link them and what does that do? Like? Does that tell me when I schedule Sally, her husband would like to be scheduled with her? Or how does that work?

Aaron Stewart 21:31 Oh, Alex, okay, you’re gonna get me to talk about something that’s not released yet. But might as well Oh, really? So no, I mean, this part is released, but I’m not able to talk about it without talking about something else. So what household scheduling currently does is this allows you to put your family into household and then you can set preferences for each family member. So husband and wife can put them and kids can put themselves on there. And I could say, when my wife has already scheduled on the plan, I prefer to be scheduled. So then when my team leader is on the plan, and they click the button that says who there’s still one person needed, and they like look through their list of people that then there’ll be a green badge next to my name that says, hey, Aaron prefers to serve on this date. Or you can do the opposite and say, Hey, one of us has to stay home and watch the kids if the other one is serving. So make sure that we aren’t scheduled at the same time. So we’ll do all that stuff to help the schedulers and even do it across ministries, because a lot of times like husband is like scheduled like in junior high and the wife is going to be on the worship team or something. And their ministries that don’t necessarily know anything about each other. But Planning Center knows that they happen at the same time. And they can help the team leader avoid sending a request to somebody who’s just going to decline and then make you do it again later. Do you guys are geniuses Oh my God. And the thing I told you real quick, because I already teased this, and I can’t, people will be mad if I don’t finish, what I was gonna say is that a big feature request, I’m not allowed to say this because we don’t, we never talk about what we’re going to do in the future. I’m not allowed to say like, I’m going to get myself in trouble. But we’re soon going to be read, I’m just kind of refreshing the main dashboard that has your schedule on it. And like the number one thing people have asked for on that page is that parents can see it, their kids schedule or their spouses schedule, and be able to see the calendar for their whole family or be able to add a blockout date for like the whole family at once. So that’s like, the thing that I’m planning on and really, really hoping that we release, it’s still going to be a couple of months for sure, probably three or four months away. But that’s one of the next big things that we plan to work on. But if I don’t do it, you can’t yell at me.

Alex Enfiedjian 23:52 Alright, no worries. You know, it’s funny, I found recently because I switched. You know, hopefully my listeners don’t stone me for this, but I switched to Android a few months ago, don’t worry, I’m switching back. But But um, I found that on the services app on the icon, if you hold it, it says text my team. And when I click it, it actually populates a text message with their numbers. So I could text them for the upcoming plan, which I’m like you guys are geniuses, like everything you guys do is just like, so. It’s to make everyone’s life easier. So thank you. It’s fantastic.

Aaron Stewart 24:24 Fun fact about that right there. Not not the location of that button. But when you text your team, there’s a little option at the bottom that says include phone number reference. Have you seen that? Yeah. Okay. So this is a problem that I had, but I never thought about it. And actually just a customer wrote in and said, Hey, you should do teen texting, which I already had planned on because but when you do it, you should do this thing. And he had like designed this kind of whole thing. And I took most of what he had designed. And so this is a thing that like on my worship team. I don’t have Everyone else on the teams phone numbers stored in my phone. And so the worship leader will send out a text to all these seemingly random people. And then people are responding back like great, can’t wait to see you there or you know, I’m going to be late from work, like, all I see is just random phone numbers. So this person who wrote in told me that he had the same problem was like, if you just included a little phone number reference that had the last four digits of each person’s number, then when that happens, I would know who’s saying what, and my text message program. And I was like, okay, that is genius. So basically, I’m telling you that most of my genius that you’re ascribing to me is coming from other people. But I mean, I’ll take the credit, I suppose

Alex Enfiedjian 25:44 the genius of you is that you’re listening to other people’s geniusness. Right? And that is something we all should do. Yeah. How about one more secret little tip, the rehearsal mix thing, like cuz I know, some people have a rehearsal mix account, and you can like link, it just tell people, I’m just trying to show our listeners, how much Planning Center can do. Let’s just talk about that one real quick. And then we’ll move on.

Aaron Stewart 26:09 Sure. So rehearsal mixes, is from a different company, this is a company that is called multitrack, that you didn’t know, multi tracks, makes a product called rehearsal mix, because most people know about the multitrack brand, maybe not about rehearsal mix. So we integrate with them. So what happens is they get the original recordings of your favorite worship song sounds like almost all of them, they go to the original ones, and then they get the master tracks. And they remix those tracks with almost every instrument turned up. So you can go in and you can hear oceans with the original bass part turned out or the electric guitar one or the, you know, whatever was on there. So it’s a great tool, especially for I mean, it’s a great tool for anybody, but especially if you have musicians that have a hard time, knowing what to play on that song, or you’re or you are asking them to mimic a song from a CD or even if you’re not and use, Hey, take a listen to these mixes to hear what a professional bass player does with a song like this, even if you don’t do it exactly how they’re doing it, you can learn a lot of strategies. So anyway, they do that and we integrate with them. So when you add a song in Planning Center, you can link it with your rehearsal mix account, there’s a whole bunch of things, basically, first thing you have to do is go over to the rehearsal mix site, you pay something to them. And then in Planning Center, it’s just literally just a button, you say, link to the rehearsal mix. And then all of the files for every instrument and that song are just automatically and sometimes it’s like 20 files in like 10 seconds are just in your account. And all in your users can actually hear the songs and rehearse them all.

Alex Enfiedjian 27:49 Yeah, it’s amazing. Well, let’s shift gears here. And let’s talk about maybe a church who wants to set up Planning Center now that they’ve heard how incredible it is. And if you are going to help a church setup Planning Center services for the very first time, like what are some key things that they need to be aware of? To get the most out of the product? I’m thinking of things like assigning teams or creating teams, service types, reminder, emails, tags, email templates, all that. So what are some things that you would tell somebody who’s just setting up to be aware of

Aaron Stewart 28:21 gotcha. So like Alex said, it’s just a simple list of 18 things that you have to go through.

Aaron Stewart 28:28 So I can say a couple of things here, one. First, before you even sign up, there is a misconception that Planning Center is only for big churches. A lot of times people were like, Oh, I just thought it was only for big churches, or I thought it was expensive. So if that’s you know, that you pay based on how many team members you have. So we’ve got churches that have five people total, their volunteers, they’re still using Planning Center, because anybody can be organized. It doesn’t matter how many people on your teams, you probably still are doing the same amount of songs as somebody else. And what’s nice is we have prices based on all of that. So you can actually sign up for a 100% free version of Planning Center that has every single feature that we have, but you only can put five people in it total. But still, even if you weren’t if you don’t have a budget or whatever, use it for yourself, just to get your own songs organized in there. Anyway. So that’s number one. Number two, is once you decide to start, start, slowly, people will often sign up for their 30 day trial, and be like, oh, to get my money’s worth out of this. I have to add every song that I’ve ever done and all the team members that I’ve ever used and have to backfill all this information, and that quickly becomes overwhelming and a lot of people end up not following through. So by starting slow, I mean just go in there. Add the five songs you’re going to do this week and you’re six or seven team members, actually the first week, maybe don’t even add two numbers, just add your songs and see how you feel about it yourself. And then you can add more on as time goes on. So those are the two things that I would say when you’re starting have that strategy in mind. So moving over to like, what are the more specific things? Well, if we’re going to boil it all down to things that you might not think most everything you’re going to think about doing, but the one thing you might not think to do, is actually setting up your team correctly. And so when you’re in your service, you go, and you have to click Create a new team. And for instance, I would say band is my team. And then in that team, I create positions. So I would have band team, and then positions would be drums, guitar, keys, whatever. And then each of those positions I assign people to them. Part of the reason this can be confusing is we do let you just schedule people for a weekend without officially putting them on a team. So that can get people in trouble if they just are just always scheduling but they never do like the actual setup process, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of stuff. So like officially setting up your team, the first is going to make things so much easier. So after you set up your team, then you’re going to want to make a template, almost every ministry that I know of has something predictable about the way they schedule their teams. Either. It’s the exact same people every week, or if the exact same people every other week. Or it’s not the same people, but it’s the same positions. So here’s an example that combines all of those at my church, let’s say, I’m the worship leader every single week. My drummer is the drummer every single week. But the rest of my band alternates, and I choose different people based on the week. So I can go in, I can make a template. And in the template, I put myself in confirmed, I put my drummer in potentially confirmed but maybe unconfirmed, since it’s somebody else, that way, he’ll get an email asking him just to confirm. And then the rest instead of putting people in, I’ll put in what’s called a needed position. So I’m just saying keys, I’m going to need one person on keys need two people on guitar, need one person on base, need somebody on vocals, whatever it is needed. So my template has two actual people. And then for needed positions, then when it’s time to action, so that’s step number two is the templates, then step three is actually planning your service, you go and you plan your service, and you import the right template. So I import the template that all of a sudden, I’m in there, the drummer’s in there, and those needed positions. What’s great about those, if you’ve done everything else, you set up your team, and you made the needed positions, then when it’s time to actually choose who the keyboard player is going to be, you don’t have to remember anything, you click on the little button that says one person needed. And it’s going to pop up a thing that gives you a list of all of your potential keyboard players. And that is where you see all the conflicts, oh, wife is scheduled already in this other ministry or no block out there on vacation or doesn’t prefer to be scheduled more than three times in a month, there’s a whole bunch of different conflicts that can show that can help you. But they only show when you do this the exact right way. Now, let me tie this all together. Because this is a lot, we have a video, that’s called Planning Center University, we actually have lots of small videos, and we have an entire section in our online help. That’s like getting started. And then we’ll walk you through this. But even if, if you don’t like written documentation, there’s a 45 minute video called Well, there’s 345 minute videos, one on setup, one on scheduling, and one on music, I actually have the one teaching all of those. So you’ll hear me say the things I just said. But it’s like a class that goes kind of a little bit slower, that really walks you through the exact right steps to get started.

Alex Enfiedjian 34:06 Yeah, I think what you said about setting it up taking the time to set it up right is so important because your software is so powerful. And there are so many features that they could take advantage of that if they don’t set it up, right, they’re gonna miss out on all of that, like they could, if you set it up, right, and you assign people to the teams and assign people to the positions and then you like go and say they can’t do these Sundays. And they don’t want to be scheduled more than three times a month or whatever. And then you could literally like auto schedule people and it’ll put them in the right I’ve never done that because I like I kind of handpick my teams, because I know that drummer doesn’t play well with that bass player, whatever. But I mean, those are the features that they could take advantage of if they take the time to set it up. Right. So I’ll put a link in the show notes, Aaron to that video that you’re talking about so that people can watch it because they will get so much more out of Planning Center if they set it up. Right. So

Aaron Stewart 34:55 absolutely. And one of the challenges for us now being around for so long. Is that now We have people that are new at a church that inherited a bad Planning Center from somebody else. So it’s kind of challenging for us because we can’t just, you know, in the past videos on how to get started, we’re like, Good enough. But now it’s like, you’ve already got this thing, and you’re not totally sure if it’s right, and you might need to fix it. And I can tell you that the main thing that people have done wrong in the past is they’ve set up their teams in funky ways. So if you’re somebody who inherited it from somebody else, I would still recommend taking a look at this video, because in that video, I go through quite a few things that like, hey, if it’s like this, that’s the first sign that you could probably be doing this a better way.

Alex Enfiedjian 35:42 Yeah, I inherited a bad Planning Center setup just recently. And so I had to go in and delete a bunch of stuff and assign people and I mean, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m like getting into the guts of Planning Center for the first time and really discovering how powerful it is. So

Aaron Stewart 35:56 yeah, part of the problem is not that the person before you did it wrong, but our software changes a lot. So they could have set it up in the best way that was there when they started. And then five years later, so many better things are out that only work if you had switched something five years ago, that just they missed or didn’t do or whatever. So I don’t want to throw people under the bus who resulted in bad Planning Center accounts. But that’s how that can happen sometimes,

Alex Enfiedjian 36:20 yeah. Now, I want to respect your time, I know you have to head out soon. But one thing that I want you to cover before we end is you guys make lots of software products, you have things like music stand and check ins and giving and groups and several other products that they all integrate with each other. So I would love for you just to describe to us what the Planning Center utopia looks like when ever when a church is using all of your products to correctly integrate to their full potential. What would it look like for a church to have all of that dialed in? Can you kind of paint a picture for us?

Aaron Stewart 36:53 Yeah, so services is one of seven main applications. The other apps that we have our check ins, which is our one of our most popular ones, check kids into classrooms and like labels, some people use it to check their choir in or check people into any classroom or event or service. We have plenty of resources. That is for managing your facilities. I want you to book this room for this. And I need there to be chairs and tables in there. We have an app giving Planning Center giving handles all areas of donations. So it will do online giving text to give is included in the price. It will do cash check. Basically, everything related to your your giving and your church registrations is another app that we have Planning Center registrations helps people register for events, we find it’s most commonly used for like high school winter camp or summer camp, those kind of events. But it can be used for any type of event that you need to take payments for. We have Planning Center groups, which is mostly for small groups. And it allows you to have a public page on your website that lets people browse to find a group that fits their criteria on the right day of the week. And that’s for the right stage of life and all that kind of stuff. And then finally, we have Planning Center people and Planning Center people is actually the center of the Planning Center universe, and it is 100%. Free. Everybody that uses Planning Center actually has Planning Center people already there even if you’re not using it. And if you were to switch over to use Planning Center for like for more than just for services. That’s how you would get started, you could import a CSV of people into the Planning Center people application, and it lets you it’s like your church member database. But it’s got it’s got a ton of features for free. And it especially admins of services can use Planning Center people to track background checks to do prayer requests for your church, you can make lists of people based on all the apps. So you could say I want to find people in my church whose kids have attended once in the last month, who are on a serving team, but have not registered for this event. And then you get a list of those people and you can email them or do something else with them. So the Planning Center utopia is grown. Like we’ve already got the apps, and they’re talking more and more to each other. And that central people app, like I said, it’s totally free. So if you if this is the one thing you take out of this today, anybody who’s listening, like go and check out Planning Center people because there’s really no pressure to use it and it can do a ton of stuff for you. Aaron, thank

Alex Enfiedjian 39:39 you so much for making an incredible product to serve us worship leaders. We appreciate it. You’re welcome. And thanks for your time today. Absolutely.

Alex Enfiedjian 39:51 All right. That was awesome. Aaron, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us and share some tips. Before we go. I’m going to share a few more more tips, tricks and hacks with you guys that I think might be helpful. I’m not going to explain exactly how to do each one of these things. But I’m going to tell you about them so that you can kind of do some digging, and find how to do that. A couple tips Ready, here we go. running reports, you can run several reports in Planning Center. Under the services page, there’s a little button that says reports, you click that. And there’s multiple parameters that you can choose from and run reports ranging from how often you’ve used someone on your team, to even running like what songs have I done for the last year, and how many times and in which services. So like, at the end of the year, when ccli asks you to report all your songs, you can literally run a report and have everything right there on a PDF for you to input into CCLS reporting software. So that’s awesome. You can here’s another tip, you can see if someone has downloaded the media that’s attached to a song. So if you have a rehearsal mp3 file, and your bass player shows up and doesn’t know the song, you can go into Planning Center. And under that attachment, you can see if that bass player access that file, and when he accessed it, and how many times he accessed it. So you can track people how they’re preparing. So that’s another tip. Under a specific person’s page, you can see kind of their overall acceptance rate, how often they’ve accepted or declined or not responded to requests. So you can kind of see what kind of team member they are like if they’re, you know, it’ll show you like on a meter, mostly green, a little bit of red or mostly red, almost always the client and you can kind of assess how your team members are doing. You can also see if someone has read a request, so when you request someone to serve, if they don’t respond, you can actually track the request was sent on this date, the day that they saw the request was this date. But they haven’t responded yet. Or if they did respond, it shows you when they responded. So you can actually see like how quick people are to respond to your Planning Center requests. Another tip is the matrix view, which is also on the services page. In the top right corner, you see the matrix button, if you click that, you can load multiple plans at one time. So you can schedule multiple teams at the same time and kind of get an overview of how the month is gonna look. And if you’ve scheduled this person too many times or not enough, that’s I live in the matrix view, I love the matrix view. So if you don’t know about that, check that one out. Also, within the matrix view, if you’ve set up your teams properly, you can use the auto schedule feature that we talked about in the episode, and it’ll literally auto populate all the needed positions for you. So that’s cool. Another tip is if you input the BPM beats per minute in the song Information section, so inside of a song, it has like, you know, how long is the song? What time signature is it, if you put you know it’s 84 BPM, when you go into the rehearsal view, in the service flow, there’s a button at the top right that says rehearse. If you go into that rehearsal view, or if you on your app, click the media player, it’ll give you a metronome with the songs and their BPM at the correct tempo. So you can practice to the right tempo of the songs. So if you put the information in, you’re going to get more out of the software. Another tip is with music stand, which is a an audition that you pay two bucks a month. And you can use music stand, which is like having your sheet music on an iPad, you can actually sync all your team members iPads to a master iPad. And when that master person turns the page to the next song, all of the team’s iPads get updated at the same time. So that’s a tip for those of you who want to try using music stand. That’s a cool hack. You guys can set up reminder emails when you’re setting up a plan. It’ll ask if you want to email certain teams a reminder. So you could say I want to email my worship team. reminder email seven days before the event or three days before the event. Or I want to email the tech team the day before the event to remind them that they’re on. So you can set up reminder emails, if you didn’t know about that. You can turn your plan into a live event. Basically, it opens this giant screen and it tells you what’s currently happening. It shows you any notes that are related to that item. It shows you what’s coming up next. And it keeps in sync between all people using the app. So like if your video crew is over in the back corner of the sanctuary and your audio crew is in the middle of the sanctuary and your broadcasts audio crew. I’m just saying if you have a bunch of teams, they all see this live view of the service and it tells you exactly how many seconds are left for each item if you have inputted the time length of the items, so it’s crazy powerful. That’s another tip. Here’s another tip I got three more for you, I think you can create different arrangements of the same song. So if you play one song in two different styles like country arrangement and pop arrangement, then you can have the correct chord charts for the country. Arrange And the correct chords for the proper arrangement or even the correct song sequence, like if you do three courses in one of them, and only one course and the other one. So the arrangement section of a song allows you to create multiple instances of the same song. So that’s cool. You can also this one’s huge, you can sync Planning Center to pro presenter, if you use pro presenter for your lyric slides, you can sync the two software’s together. So that pro presenter will automatically pull the information from your Planning Center plan and populate your pro presenter playlist with the right songs and the right song sequences. Like if you do it right in Planning Center, then pro presenter will be set up for you automatically. Okay. And then finally, last tip, again, there’s a million things that software can do. But I’m just trying to give you a few cool little things you might not have known about. You can search for songs based on theme. So if you go to the songs tab and you just in the filter section on the left, you can type the cross or cross or grace, it’ll pull up all the songs that have those themes in them that you can use in your plan. So there’s a quick rapid fire set of tips, tricks and hacks that I hope will be helpful to you. That’s all I have time to give you today. I hope this episode was helpful to you. As always, if this episode helped you please help us by forwarding it on to a friend who might be helped by this episode. It always helps us when you spread the word about the podcast. So check out Planning Center this month planning dot center and you can find all that information in the show notes. God bless you guys as you continue to serve your churches excellently. And I will see you next month for another helpful episode.