Besides the Word of God, Planning Center Online (aka PCO) is the single most valuable tool for taking your worship team from good to great! Far more than the administrative vehicle that most churches use it for, PCO is a pastoral tool.

I first heard about PCO from friends on the HIllsong team well over a decade ago and have loved using it ever since. I currently serve at Exchange Church, a startup located in Walnut Creek, California. While we are less than a year old, our pastors Mark and Ellie Cotter used to be the youth pastors at Lakewood Church. They are amazing people, and like myself they are passionate about serving God, the church and our teams. Mark and Ellie have graciously agreed to let me use Exchange as a PCO guinea pig. While I’m not actually playing on the team in this season, I am working behind the scenes to get systems in place in preparation for the season to come, which gets us to my first point.


One of the advantages of being at an established church is that there are systems in place – but – one of the disadvantages of being at an established church is that there are systems in place. It is easy to get caught up in the doing without revisiting the effectiveness of our systems. At the song level PCO makes it easy to roster songs in plenty of time for people to learn them, as well as attach and transpose audio files and charts to the keys you’ll be doing them in. Strategically this allows you to prepare and equip your team with the necessary resources to learn the material as it will be played, while demonstrating the care and consideration to make this process easier. Like I said, this is a pastoral tool that can do so much to help teams thrive and grow.


At the magazine we have the privilege of serving the local church at the church level, which means that we are here to gently – and judiciously push the envelope. My comment about established systems is really rooted in church and team culture. Regardless of whether it is the senior pastor, worship pastor, or both, not all churches are great at equipping. If this is your church I encourage you to prayerfully consider how to approach this is a constructive way that serves your church, leaders, and what God is doing in your local church.

PCO is a portal where your church culture expresses itself visibly to everyone that serves at your church. While preparedness may be important to you and your leaders, PCO tends to reveal how prepared you really are.


While rehearsals and Sunday services tend to share the same songs, they don’t share the same goals or timeline. Creating a new service type for rehearsals is a great way to separate these weekly missions with the added benefit of having a place in PCO dedicated to rehearsal. You can also create a template that you can use from week to week that includes slots for songs and a space to make notes about what you want to accomplish. We’ve created the following tutorial to show you how easy this is to do!

This approach can work wonders with your sound teams as well, which again gets us back to culture and care. Most sound teams love serving the worship team, and communication is usually the missing link that prevents a sound team from growing in their capacity. Creating a weekly plan that includes the audio tracks for the songs you’ll be doing that weekend allows the sound team to get familiar with the material and start thinking about mix cues. This is especially helpful if your sound team does not attend rehearsal. Noting that sound teams tend to listen to things technically they don’t always listen for music in terms of which instrument is the loudest during a specific section of a song. Adding notes underneath each song with references to specific times in the song will open up a dialog for helping them do a better job. If by chance people don’t rise to the opportunity, PCO gives you the ability to identify this and work with your team to correct it.


As I mentioned, PCO is as much if not more a pastoral tool as it is an administrative one. I encourage you explore what PCO can do for your team. Until next time, thanks for the opportunity to serve you and your team!

Read Better By Sunday with Planning Center Online #1


    • Hello Frank – MUCH appreciated. In our comfort of having worked with PCO aka Planning Center Online for so long, we managed to forget that not everyone is familiar with this software. We’ve updated this and the previous article defining what PCO stands for. Thanks for taking the time to point this out:) God Bess – [WM]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.