Count Active People in Planning Center

Count Active People in Planning Center – Yes, It’s a Thing!

Can you track attendance in Planning Center? Yes, absolutely. But that’s different from knowing how many people are active in church. Active people in church are much more valuable and dictate their involvement in serving, tithing and many other areas. Let me break it down.

What’s the difference between a count for attendance and a count of active people?

A count of attendance at church is simply the number of people in a seat during a weekend church service. This includes people who have been attending for weeks, months and year as well as first-time visitors or irregular guests.

When you’re planning for growth, you need to understand your baseline of people involved at church. The count of attendance only helps you plan for a weekend service. It does not help you plan for the overall size and involvement of people at church.

The count of active people is the number of people who are actively participating in what the church offers including ministries, small groups, tithing, kids check-in and others.

You might think, doesn’t the number of people in the People dashboard of Planning Center show you this number? The answer is no. This dashboard shows the number of people in your system, which could be adults, children, active, inactive, etc.

The short answer to all of this is the built-in tools are not enough to give you actionable data. Hence why, I developed a way to count the number of active people in Planning Center with automation.

Ready to see how? Read on.

Approach to counting active people

Planning Center has this concept of lists, which is a simply way to create a list of people based on dynamic rules. This list can also “auto-refresh” each night so it has the latest set of names that match the rules you defined.

When it comes to counting active people in Planning Center, you can define the rules like I’ll show you in a minute and have the list auto-refresh each night. This will give you a count of people currently in the list each night.

Every time you take a snapshot of that count, you can save it somewhere (Google Sheet) and begin to create metrics on that count.

Create the list in Planning Center

Add the list rules

The first step to building this simple automation is to create the list in Planning Center.

  1. Go to and click Login
  2. Click on the Home in the top-left and select People
  3. Click on Lists at the top
  4. Click on New List
  5. Click on + Add Rule
  6. Implement the rules as shown below in this picture (click on the picture to see it bigger)

Don’t forget to give your list a name at the top too! Now let me break down what these rules are accomplishing

First, here’s a run down of Rule #1

  • Check-Ins: Looks at any child or adult that’s checked in to anything over the last 3 months. This includes kids check-in and any check-in.
  • Giving: Any person that’s given any donation in the last 3 months.
  • Groups: Any person that’s been part of a group of any type in the past 3 months.
  • Services: Any person that was scheduled (to volunteer) at any service.

Second, here’s a run down of Rule #2

We love our children, but they don’t actually stay “active” in the church like an adult. Therefore, the second rule only accounts for adults.

Also, when you’re replicating these rules in your Planning Center, make sure the “AND” and “OR” reflect what the picture shows above. If you need to change from an “AND” to an “OR” or vice versa, just click on the word, and it will change.

Click Submit

Set the list to auto-refresh

With the list now created, the list must be auto-refreshed each night.

  1. Click on the Settings tab
  2. Toggle the Auto-refresh results to ON (green)

This will allow Planning Center to automatically update the results each night. When you pull the current count in the next step, it will be the most updated count for tracking purposes.

Track active people in Planning Center

To actually “track” the count of active people in Planning Center, we’re going to use our friend, Zapier.

For starters, please make sure you’ve setup the API access needed between Zapier and Planning Center. In that article, I go in detail of setting it all up in Planning Center’s developer portal.

Setup Integration between Planning Center and Zapier

Create the Schedule Action of the Zap

A “zap” is a set of automation steps in Zapier. To begin with this new zap, follow these steps to create the schedule for this:

  1. Login to
  2. Click Create Zap
  3. For the “Trigger” step, search for Schedule by Zapier
  4. Under Event, click on Every Day
  5. Click Continue
  6. Under Time of Day, click 06:00 AM
  7. Click Continue
  8. Click Test Trigger
  9. Click Continue

By selecting 6:00 AM as the time, you’re allowing Planning Center plenty of time to refresh the list before pulling the total count from the list.

Create the Planning Center Action of the Zap

With this step of the zap created, let’s connect to Planning Center.

  1. Click on the + sign to add a new action
  2. In the Action step, search for Webhooks by Zapier and click on it
  3. Under Event, click on Custom Request
  4. Click Continue
  5. Under Method, select GET
  6. Under URL, you’ll need to piece together some information.
    • Go back to Planning Center and look at the URL on the page where you list is created. To be clear, it’s not the page with all of the lists on it. It’s the page you see after you click on the list. The URL will look something like this:
    • Copy the number at the end (i.e. 1234567) and past it to the end of the below URL like this:
    • Paste this new URL into the URL field of the zap’s action step
  7. In the Basic Auth field, paste the authorization details you created from this previous post into the field. This is what gives Zapier “access” to Planning Center on your behalf.
  8. Click Continue
  9. Click Test & Review

In the results that come up, you can type in total_people in the search box and see a result like this:

Example of Total People in Planning Center

Click Continue

Create the Google Sheets Action of the Zap

The final step of this automation is to log the total_people from above in a way where you can track it daily. As a non-profit organization, you are eligible for a free Google Workspace, which includes Google Sheets.

In a future post, I’ll explain how to get the Google Workspace for free if you haven’t already. For now, we’ll assume you already have it for this automation.

First, create a blank Google Sheet that you’ll have full access to edit. On the first tab, add two headers at the top of the first two columns. Label the first header (in cell A1) Date and the second header (in cell B1) Total Adults. Name the Google Sheet something you can remember and find easily.

Now, back to Zapier…

  1. Click on the + sign to add a new action
  2. In the Action step, search for Google Sheets and click on it
  3. Under Event, select Create Spreadsheet Row
  4. Click Continue
  5. Under Choose Account, select the Google account you created the Google Sheet with. If you haven’t connected this Google account to Zapier before, you’ll need to follow those steps first in Zapier.
  6. Once it’s connected and selected, click Continue
  7. Follow the prompts to locate the Google Sheet you created above. Depending on where you saved the sheet, you’ll be prompted to either locate it in your personal Google Drive or in a Shared Drive for your organization.
  8. In the Date field (which is the same A1 cell “Date” you created), select the “Pretty Date” from the Scheduler action previously created
    Zapier - Scheduling Date
  9. In the Total Adults field (which is the same B1 cell “Total Adults” you created), search for the total_people field in the Webhook action previously created
    Zapier - Total Adults
  10. Click Continue
  11. Click Test & Review

Once the test is complete, you should see the current date and count in a new row on the Google Sheet.

With this last action created, you’re ready to click Publish and let your Zap be live!

Putting it all together

Let’s review what we just did.

First, you created a list in Planning Center that counts how many active adults are at your church. This list is set to auto-refresh every night.

Second, you created a zap in Zapier that runs every day at 6AM. This zap tracks the total number of active adults each day in a Google Sheet.

With that now in place, there are a couple of “gotcha’s” I’ve encountered that you should be aware of with this new tool in your toolbelt.

  • The “giving” metric of the Planning Center list relies on giving batches to be committed on a regular basis (i.e. daily).
  • The “rules” of the Planning Center list use a timeframe of 3 months, which works great for us. If it doesn’t work great for you, adjust it.

If you need help overcoming some other challenge in Planning Center, please send me a message so we can figure out a solution together.

Scroll to Top