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Hello all,

I wanted to take some time to share about our church's experience with Planning Center Online and the kinds of things we do with it at our church in case it would prove to be helpful to others.

Planning Center Online Services ("PCO") is a subscription based scheduling service designed to assist churches with scheduling and putting together worship services (no, I'm not being paid/reimbursed by PCO). It is based on putting volunteers into a database (you can categorize volunteers by their roles, i.e. ushers, tech volunteers, piano, drummer, etc.) and then scheduling them for dates for which they are volunteering. Each service allows you to input items such as songs and readings for the volunteers to view in preparation for the service (if you link in your church's CCLI subscription, you can import chord sheets and lyrics into the service for viewing and we also link YouTube links to the songs so that volunteers can use them to practice). Our worship coordinator also links the slides for each song from Pro Presenter to each song in PCO so that they're more easily available to be put into Pro Presenter once the order of service has been decided on.

My first experience with Planning Center Online was when I started volunteering with a praise team at our church. I was designated what is known as a "scheduled viewer" and I could see services as I was assigned to volunteer. I had the ability to accept or decline the request to participate. However, I was limited to looking at what was already loaded in the service.

Later on I became the leader of a praise team and was moved to being an editor. This gave me the ability to add songs and other items to the service outline and schedule practices for the team. I also am able to send emails and notices to the whole team from within PCO to let them know information about the service. One of the other things I discovered at this time was that while you can load songs in numerous keys into PCO, you can also load "alternate keys" for the chosen key to ensure that "capoed" music is available. This functionality lead to me using the an application called 'Music Stand' that allows viewing of the chord sheets and lyric pages on a tablet for practice or for Sunday morning. I lead from an acoustic guitar and am able to swipe from song to song and makes notations on the chord charts.

PCO has some helpful videos if you're just curious and want to know what the service is about. 

I'm not sure what else to add at this time, but I'll try to treat this as a living document and suggest that you feel free to ask questions you want about PCO and how we are utilizing it at our church and I will do my best to answer.


Thanks for posting this, Adom. Looks like a pretty great tool (and built with a very modern interface). I'd be curious to hear how other churches are using it as well. 

I thought it would be helpful to add a link to their website:

I've used PCO also as a volunteer at my church.  I really enjoyed having the option to review the sheet music or listen to the music at home.

Great idea to post about PCO, Adom!  We started using Planning Centre Online at Faith Church in Burlington about 4 years ago. Here are some notes based on our experience.

I highly recommend PCO for any church team, especially where you have one or two technology champions who can assist others with the rollout. There is a huge range of options -- many of which we don't use -- and for those comfortable with using software, it is very intuitive.PCO is an amazing worship planning tool (and more), especially used in conjunction with CCLI. I use a lot of SAAS (Software as a Service) tools in my line of work and PCO is better than most from a user design perspective (not to say there weren't some growing pains from less tech savvy users). They continue to make improvements over time.

Planning Centre Online has been branching into other areas such as volunteer management and online giving. Based on my experience with PCO to date, I suspect those tools would also be great.

Here are some highlights of the features we use most:

- Scheduling - team members (including pastors and AV volunteers) can block out their dates in advance so that our scheduler knows who is available when.

- Email Notifications - A reminder is automatically sent a week in advance to anyone who is scheduled for the next Sunday.

- Planning - we have a general service template so that all of the regular pieces of the order of worship are there. Then you simply drag and drop your songs into the template. The planning matrix view allows you to see past Sunday plans alongside your current plan so that you can avoid repeating songs too often. Our pastor has started to pre-populate the plans in advance with his sermon themes and Bible passages, so that worship leaders can get started planning their services as early as possible.

- Worship Plans/Cue Sheets - Once a service is planned, a one-page PDF of the plan can be sent to all of the team members who are scheduled, along with a note where you can provide special instructions or additional information about the service.

- Reporting - PCO keeps track of when and how often you use songs and allows you to generate reports.

- Music Stand App - I am the only team member who has taken advantage of the Music Stand app but for me it has been a huge game changer. I use my iPad to lead worship. I see the chord sheet in the key of my choice and I advance the page or backtrack using a bluetooth foot pedal. - I am also able to attach prepared notes such as introductory words and prayers and include that on my screen. There are some cool built-in features, including a metronome, and notation and highlighting tools. While the rest of the team sorts through paper file folders to gather their music, I just put my iPad in it's holder and open the app.





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