Plan for Planning
As a music pastor, I’m always looking for the most efficient way to accomplish my tasks in order to be more of a minister than an administrator. I have the pleasure of serving at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. When I started there, I was thrilled to find that they had already made organization a high priority as evidenced by a plethora of Word and Excel documents. There were the monthly band and vocalist schedules; Big Brother, our Excel document with all past and future weekends side by side (including every song, person, video, and other elements for each week); Excel documents for each and every service order; Excel booking sheets, detailing every person and piece of equipment necessary for our tech department; plus all the other various details floating around in our heads.
After a couple months of learning these systems, I realized that we were very organized but not very efficient. These documents became multiple places to store much of the same information, and it was easy to forget to update them all when information in one of them changed.
Then there were the scheduling difficulties. Each month I would e-mail my musicians a calendar with the dates I wanted them to serve. Sometimes they replied to the e-mail, sometimes they called me on the phone, and sometimes they didn’t respond at all. Keeping track of this was often problematic, especially when I received phone calls in the car or verbal responses in-between church services. Those are times when my mind is not prone to retain new information.
A Worthy Solution
I will assert that if you are reading this article, written by a guy you’ve never heard of, then you have also read other stories enough times to know that I probably wouldn’t outline all these problems without providing an imminent solution. Not being one to disappoint, here it is: www.planningcenteronline.com. Planning Center has drastically increased both our organization and our efficiency in one fell swoop. Not only that, but it gave us solutions for increasing communication and connectedness among our staff and volunteers.
After inputting all the information for our services, we schedule our volunteers. Planning Center sends them a scheduling request e-mail which contains links for them to accept or decline. These links will take them directly to the site to view or download any files to which we have given them access and automatically generate e-mails that inform us of their response. They can also login to the site and block out dates as unavailable even before we schedule them. What’s more, we never had to train any of our volunteers; they just got it!
Today, we have completely obliterated all but one lingering Excel document. Instead of reentering the same information in multiple documents, we put it all in one place: Planning Center. Then Planning Center does the hard work of displaying our data in many different formats. “Plan View” displays all the details of each service, while “Matrix View” shows us various plans (services) side by side to facilitate long-term planning, and multiple customizable “Print Views” let us choose the information we want printed on our service flow. Planning Center does all this and much more with simplicity and style.
After using Planning Center for the last two years, I can honestly say its tag line is indisputable: it has revolutionized the way we plan our worship services.