10 Reasons To Consider Planning Center For Your ChMS
There are many church management systems out there and the truth is, most of them will get the job done. But you don’t want a system that just gets the job done. You’re looking for a system that will connect all your church communication dots. You want something powerful, affordable, and easy to use.
But how do you sift through all the systems with all their features, in order to finally arrive on which system to invest in and use? After all, this is the system that will collect your digital giving, manage your congregation’s profiles and contact lists, organize small groups, and much more. It’s no small decision.
After working with dozens of churches and hundreds of staff and volunteer leaders, there is one ChMS I recommend to churches.
And that’s Planning Center.
Years ago, Planning Center was all about planning worship services. While it still does this, Planning Center has expanded its applications to do so much more.
While we don’t have time to dive into all the features and intricacies of Planning Center in this post, I want to give you 10 solid reasons why you should consider starting with or switching to Planning Center.
However, first a couple notes.
First, Planning Center is NOT an affiliate of Clearpath.Church and I gain nothing from your using them for your ChMS. This is simply a great company producing an incredible product.
Second, I don’t want to harm other companies who are certainly doing great work. I hope they are super successful and thrive in their mission. So while here I’m giving a strong recommendation for Planning Center, you’re not going to hear me bash the other guys.
With that, let’s get started. My top ten favorite things about Planning Center!
One of the main deterrents for churches ready to invest in a ChMS is pricing. Many companies can cost even a small church hundreds of dollars per month regardless of how much they use the system.
Planning Center is different as you pay for each individual app to the quantity you use it. While this may seem like an elaborate way to make more money, consider this: the central component to Planning Center is “People”, a FREE profile management system with complete functionality to do tons of amazing things. Then, every part of PC has a free tier where you can use it until it starts getting traction and you need to upgrade.
Most churches I work with spend around $50-$70 on Planning Center. Medium-sized churches are more in the $100-$150 range. Compared to the $200-$300 (or more) of many ChMS, this is bargain.
Many ChMS boast an “all-in-one” system where they house things like emailing, texting, and merchant pay, all in one system. What they don’t tell you is these features are extremely difficult to do well and their built-in systems are super limited.
Planning Center realized this and instead of keeping their system closed, they opened it to formal and informal outside developers to build complimentary applications.
This means there are tons of great integrations out there to make your system even better. For example, when you email in Planning Center, you are actually emailing with Mailchimp, which gives you loads more design options and much better deliverability to your lists.
We cover this a little in “pricing” but the Ala Carte pricing of PC allows you to choose which application you want to use. Do you want Planning Center People and Groups but would rather not use Registrations? That’s okay with Planning Center.
Do you only use the Small Group application during the school year? Then downgrade for the summer and save your church some money.
The Ala Carte pricing give you options.
Most ChMS are closed systems where you need to be an approved admin use it. While this is practical for many features, there are some things you want people to be able to engage with without a password.
To solve this problem, Planning Center has something called Public Pages, which are permalinks you can embed or link to in order to have people sign-up for small groups, register for an event, fill out a form, or give online.
These pages allow a person to login with just their email address so they don’t need to remember a password.
A nice little bi-product of the Public Page is how they function as system opt-ins. When a person uses a public page to register for an event, give, join a small group, etc; if they are new, the system will pull their info into Planning Center People.
With this feature, you are able to automatically add people to your database without a connection card.
The obvious next question is, “what if they don’t want to be in your system?” Well, because you’ve connected your system with Mailchimp, everytime they get a church email, they have the option of unsubscribing; a feature many ChMS don’t have.
One of my favorite things about Planning Center is that they are always updating and innovating. They are never content with an application. It can always be better. They roll out these changes automatically and you can learn about them in their up-to-date blog.
I often find myself telling churches if they have a ChMS that is not always updating and changing, then get rid of it. It’s tempting to love a never changing system because we don’t like learning new technology. The problem is technology and communications are always changing and if your system isn’t changing, it could become irrelevant.
NO CONTRACT OR SALESPEOPLE
When you start a Planning Center account, you go to their website and sign-up. You can start on all free tiers without even adding a credit card. You don’t have to deal with a salesperson or confront someone when you want to downgrade or cancel.
Why is this? First, that’s what people expect these days. Second, they know their product is so good that they can offer it for free and allow people to cancel without calling in. When you have a quality product, you don’t need to corner people in. That’s what cable companies do.
Many of the Planning Center Applications come with their own mobile app. With Planning Center People, leaders can access profile info. With Check-ins, leaders can use their own smartphone to check kids in. With Services, leaders and volunteers can engage with schedules and music right from their device.
Now, you don’t need a mobile app for everything, but the fact that they have great free apps is a nice plus.
When you enter the different Planning Center applications, you quickly realize this was created to make sense for normal people. While there will always be more complex features and sometimes it helps to be a “tech or systems person” to fully utilize these it, your average person can easily login and engage with most of the features in Planning Center.
YOU'RE PROBABLY ALREADY USING IT
While many churches don’t utilize the many applications Planning Center has to offer, they are probably using Planning Center Services, the application that manages everything for Sunday morning.
Most ChMS have a scheduling feature, but nobody has a worship service planning application like Planning Center. This means, even if you use a different Church Management System, you’ll still need to have Planning Center Service to plan your worship service. So why not simplify and keep it all in one system? No redundant profiles, one bill, and connected applications.
LIKE WHAT YOU'RE HEAR BUT NEED A LITTLE HELP?
Clearpath is all about helping churches develop their communications. With Planning Center, we actually build your entire system for you.
We’ve built a ton of systems, so we have best practices and experience getting this done with speed and excellence. We’ll get your ChMS connected with all the integrations and embed all your public pages on your website.
Interested in getting some help with this project?
Founder and Lead Catalyst for Clearpath.Church. Josh is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and is passionate about helping small churches find their voice. Josh lives with his family in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California.