About a year and a half ago, I was introduced to Planning Center Online (PCO), which is a web-based planning and communication tool that has helped me more effectively serve our music team. One brief article is not enough to exhaustively explain the usefulness of this tool, so I would encourage you to explore their website. Here are a few of the reasons I recommend this tool:
PCO allows you to create service plans in which you can schedule your groups and the songs they will sing. You can also upload mp3s and lyric documents to individual songs so your singers have easy access for listening and learning purposes. The program keeps record of the last time you sang a particular song so you don’t schedule it too often. This is particularly helpful with congregational songs.
The matrix view allows you to view several service plans at a time. This is great when working on an entire month’s worth of music. It keeps the task of scheduling simple.
Effective communication is essential in music ministry. PCO centralizes much of your communication with your team members including their “block-out dates” when they are out of town or unable to sing. (I only use this tool to communicate with my ensembles, groups, and soloists. I use other means to stay in touch with the choir and orchestra.)
When you schedule a singer and then email them from PCO, they receive a notification that tells them what they’re scheduled to do, and it gives them the option to accept, decline, or view the service. When they accept or decline, you receive an email letting you know.
Because PCO is web-based, it can be accessed just about everywhere. Whether you’re in the office, at home, or on the go using the smart phone or iOS application, you can easily update service plans, schedule a group, or communicate with one of your team members.
There is a monthly cost to use PCO which you can view on their website. There are different tiers depending on your number of service plans and people you have using the program.
PCO can also be used for other ministries that involve planning and scheduling people. We have used it for our nursery workers, camera men, and parking lot attendants.
The members of our music team have taken very well to this new tool and are good at responding to the notifications. It took a few months to transfer over and adapt to PCO, but now, I wouldn’t go back!