Turn Leaders Into Discipling Legends With Planning Center

Jonny Radcliff
March 19th, 2019

Editor’s Note: The directions in this blog are meant to be utilized with the People product with Planning Center Online (PCO). People is included free with all the apps in PCO.

Anytime you utilize something as vast as Planning Center, you get the nagging feeling that you’re missing out on ways that it can work masterfully for you. You also have the constant desire to have your small group leaders be the primary shepherd of their students, yet you wonder if you have given them the proper tools to do so. 

Now you can effectively eliminate both unsettled feelings with a little bit of effort. 

Here are four creative ways that Planning Center can help your small group leaders minister to their students like never before. 

To Get Started: Grant Access

Your first step is to provide permissions for each small group leader. Follow these steps:

1. Search for the leader by name. 

2. Click on the gear in the top right corner. Then click “Permission.” 

3. Select “Viewer” and click the box that says “Can Email Lists.”

4. Rejoice, for you have given your small group leader the keys to the kingdom.

#1. Create the Home Base

We want all of our leaders to care for every kid in their small group. However, you can only pray for and care about a kid that you remember exists. Create a list so that you can always draw their attention back everyone in their flock:

1. Click on “Lists” on the top tab and then click “New List” in the top right. 

2. Set the rules that will populate your small group leader’s demographic. For most it will be grade and gender. Both of these are under “Personal.” Then hit “Submit.” See this example: 

3. Click “Settings.” Select “Auto-Refresh Every Night.” Then click “Share with… A Person…” and type in your leader’s name.

4. Take the rest of the day off. You earned it. 

#2. Up Your Parent Game

Giving your leaders the ability to connect with the parents of their students allows them to take initiative unlike anything else. They are then able to create connections, plan events, and track down last minute sign-ups without relying on the group’s head leader. Here is how small group leaders can communicate to all of the parents of their clan:

1. Create another list in the same steps as listed above. However, there is one crucial step you must complete. Click “My List Should Include” and then scroll down to “household adults of matches.”

2. Now that your parent list has been created, it’s time to email them! Go back into the group and click the icon of the envelope. Your small group leader now has the ability to message the whole group. 

3. Have your leaders send an introductory email to let the parents know who they are and what their hopes are for the group. Want to go next level? Have them create a small group hangout and spread the word during that email as well. 

4. Sit back and watch revival spread throughout your region. 

#3. Never Miss a Birthday AGAIN

Don’t you always hate missing a birthday? Or, even worse, you sing “happy birthday” for one kid at youth group because someone mentions it, but then find out you missed three other kids the week before? Stop the birthday discrimination with this easy process:

1. Create a list following the same steps that you did before. 

2. Add one more rule to flush out birthdays. Select “Add a Rule,” then “Personal,” and then “Birthday (any year) month is next.” 

3. Instruct your leaders to check this list to see whose birthday is coming up. Give them ideas and materials to make it a special day for their students. 

4. Wear your cake eating pants, because you about to get your party on – a lot. 

#4. Follow Attendance Records

We want to follow the example that the Great Shepherd set for us: leave the 99 in front of us and chase down the 1. Tracking attendance is the best way to make sure no kid falls out of community and goes unnoticed. Follow these steps to provide attendance records for your small group leaders to scour so they can make personal, intentional connections with the kids who need it most:

1. Go to the Check-ins portion of Planning Center. Click “Events” and then select the event you sign your kids into. 

2. Select “Reports” in the left column and then click “New Report” to the far right.

3. After naming your report, select “Attended any sessions in the last 16 sessions.” Then select “Name,” “Gender,” and “Grade.” Click “CSV” in the top right corner. 

4. Sort the information in a way that is legible. Break it down according to each small group and distribute to your leaders. Allow them to see who has been around and who is fallen off. 

5. Now that you have this information, go get em!

It’s going to take some time for your team to get adjusted to using this program. Equally important is the need to keep harkening attention back to these effective methods. 

Institute these four practices. Circle back to make sure they are implementing them. Share stories of success. All of these will be instrumental in having your team shepherd your teens like never before. 

Jonny Radcliff

Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministry Director at Storehouse Church and the Philly Area Coordinator at National Network of Youth Ministries. He lives near Philly with his wife and the three little monsters that they rear together. His 10+ years of youth ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.