At the time of this writing, our church has over 600 volunteers actively using Planning Center Online. That’s a lot of people, all with their own lives, areas of gifting, and individual needs. Having tools that make the administrative grunt work easier can free leaders up to pour into their volunteers. Giving people resources to sharpen their skills can help them to serve with excellence, and not get burnt out in the process. Your church may have very different needs than our church does, but no matter what size or style of church you are a part of, planning to make the most of the tools at hand is always a good idea.
Giving people resources to sharpen their skills can help them to serve with excellence, and not get burnt out in the process.
C4 Church is a multi-site church in Durham Region, just East of Toronto, Ontario. In addition to two services at the original Ajax site, our Port Perry site routinely accommodates 200, and our recently launched Bowmanville site has started at 200, with room to grow from there. The church hosts 2,000 people across the three sites, and a fourth site is now in the planning stages.
Our model is one church, multiple sites. Each site has its own local character, and typically its own set of volunteers. Site pastors are responsible to lead and care for our church community, but we work as one church when it comes to worship services. We share a common teaching time through live video from our Ajax site, and worship leaders rotate from site to site. This keeps our church together in music and teaching, and allows every site to enjoy the diversity that different worship leaders bring. Each site has a production coordinator who works with the volunteers and takes care of the production needs at their home site.
Becoming a multi-site church has meant sharing the work in a different way than what we were used to. Our Sites and Services Pastor works with the Pastoral Lead Team to develop the overall service format, and then our service coordinator creates the individual site plans for each week, with an open framework for everyone else to fill in. The worship leaders add their set-list to the songs section, and then the production coordinators can jump in and add lighting and projection cues, with each person adding more detail to the plan for the volunteers that they lead.
We aim to have all the songs locked down and in the final key at least a week ahead of time. Our band members are all volunteers, and because mid-week practices aren’t really an option, everyone needs to learn their parts on their own time during the week. In addition to the appropriate PDF charts, we also need to include some media options that people can use to practice. At a minimum, this is an mp3 recording of the song, maybe a YouTube link, but now we are starting to put practice tracks in the package as well. Some of our worship leaders have been using Ableton to add tracks to their set, and they use that same system to create a rehearsal track. Multitracks.com is another good resource. The important thing is that there is a recording in the same key as what we are playing in so that individual musicians have something to practice with during the week. The Services mobile app also has the ability to download the audio recordings, so you can listen to the songs in the car or on transit. We also encourage our sound mixers to listen to the songs beforehand, so they can take a more active approach to mixing. Music Stand is the other app that is ubiquitous, and its built-in highlight and annotate feature allows people to mark up their charts as desired.
The band has 90 minutes to rehearse before a service. When the practice tools have been used, the band can save that time to fit their parts together and add some polish, instead of just trying to learn the songs.
While musicians are working through their parts during the week, the production coordinators fill in the individual cues, and then build media packages for things like lighting and projection. ProPresenter has an option to directly import from Planning Center, and the resulting playlist generally just needs a few tweaks to be ready for Sunday. If the songs exist in the library, they will be slotted in their correct place, and placeholders will appear for all the other plan items. That saves time to do some quality control on everything, and takes a big load off of the volunteer operators on Sunday.