Talk to customers. Sketch. Design. Code. Test. Repeat. This has been our life the past 6 months as we've been building Planning Center Groups. We wanted to pause for a quick sneak peek as we're about a month away from launching Groups.
If you know anything about Planning Center Online, you know that the first version of an application is hardly the last. Actually, we don't even really have versions for most of our software. It's just constant, relentless improvement and a continuous dialog with customers. Think of this as the first "Hello" in that conversation.
So, what is Planning Center Groups?
From donations to service planning to child care, churches do things differently from one another. This is definitely true when it comes to managing groups. As we talked to churches from 50 to 5,000 most of the problems to be solved fell into two categories:
1. Onboarding and engagement
- Making the groups discoverable online.
- Giving newcomers a way to inquire or join the group.
- Following up with newcomers and connecting them to the right group.
2. Facilitating communication
- Between church administrators and group leaders.
- Between group members themselves.
At launch, Planning Center Groups will focus primarily on that first category. Organizing groups, managing members, and onboarding newcomers will be the foundation on which we build more inter-group communication tools and event collaboration.
Groups & Members
Administrative side: see groups in a list view or select the "card" view for more detailed information as you browse. On the members tab you'll be able to see and communicate with group members based on their roles in the groups.
Public side: visitors can use categories to find exactly what they're looking for.
Public side: here's an example of a group page. Group leaders can log in right from this page to administer events, fill our attendance reports, add members, and more. Configure group pages to show or hide group details as needed.
This application is being built with small groups as the primary group model. However, when you think about it, there are likely a few types of groups that meet within your church. Many have the same basic needs: listing, onboarding new people, communicating with each other, communicating with leadership, and organizing meetings or events.
Administrative side: establish and configure multiple types of groups.
Public side: make some or all of those group types navigable for your visitors.
Group Calendar & Attendance Reports
Administrative side: review group calendars in aggregate or individually. As an administrator you can create and edit events as well as review attendance reports.
Public side: if the church wants a group to take attendance at their meetings, they can enable attendance reports. Reminders are sent to group leaders as events start. All they need to do is tap the link, tap the members that attended, add any newcomers, and submit the report. We're trying to make it as simple as possible for your leaders. Use attendance and membership numbers to alert admins to potential problems (a lapse in scheduling, a growth group that's grown a little too much, or small group that's a little too small).
Administrative side: we've built some basic file sharing information with group leaders or all group members.
Public side: members can log in to manage basic contact information and which groups they belong to.
Okay, sneak peek is over!
In June we'll be writing documentation, refining the design, cleaning up messes, and doing more tests. We'll also be running a small beta group with some customers to get more eyes on this application before we open the doors to everyone (the beta testing group is now closed.) Like all our applications, Planning Center Groups will include a 30-day trial when it launches. You'll be able to get a real sense of how it works and where the application is headed.
Be sure to add your email to the launch announcement list.
Dma, Kevin, Dan, Mo, Dustin, Shane, and Jeremy