Connect Planning Center API with Zapier

How to Connect to Planning Center API with Zapier

Connect Planning Center API with Zapier

Planning Center itself is a powerful church management system (or CMS). Churches around the world use it to manage their congregation’s information, giving, serving and small groups.

As a church management system, you need it to not only work well within itself but also need it to work with other systems. That’s where the power of Zapier comes in.

What's Zapier?

What’s Zapier?

Great question! Zapier is an automation tool that allows you to “connect” 2 or more systems or pieces of software that aren’t normally connected.

For example, you can connect your accounting system with Google Sheets. Or you can connect Planning Center Workflows with Mailchimp.

We just moved to Planning Center a few months ago at our church, and I’m determined to reinstate some of the automation we lost by the transition. Thankfully, when you build automation with Zapier, it does a really good job of letting you know when something doesn’t work.

What’s the Planning Center API?

API stands for Automatic Programming Interface. It’s basically a fancy way of allowing you to access a piece of software through its backdoor, with the right security protection.

When you have a robust piece of software, such as Planning Center, each “button click” on their website is actually calling a piece of API code behind the scenes. When you leverage the Planning Center API yourself, you have a greater ability to customize the types of actions you want to take.

I realize this could be getting too deep for the average person, but I promise it gets easier the more examples you see happen.

How do you use the Planning Center API?

Honestly, the possibilities are quite endless. The only limits are your imagination and the amount of time you have to dedicate to figuring it out. That’s why I’m creating articles on the steps of automation I’ve done for our church to save you some time. All of these articles will rely on Zapier as an “enabler” for the automation though to make it a little easier on all of us.

If there’s ever a “how to” you’d like to see that you haven’t been able to figure out, please send me a message. I’d be happy to help figure it out for you.

How do you connect to the Planning Center API with Zapier?

Let’s get to the meat of this article now that you have the appropriate context. In this example, we’re only going to get an “action” working in Zapier. Once you have a working action, you can add on anything you’d like

Here are the steps:

Login to a developer account with Planning Center

Before you follow these steps, make sure you’re an admin in Planning Center (at the organization level). If you’re not an admin, ask your Planning Center admin to give you those. permissions.

  1. Go to
  2. Login with your Planning Center username and password
  3. If your account is linked with multiple organizations, it’s important to make sure of these two things:
    • You’re an admin for the organization you want to use
    • You click on the organization you’re creating automation for

Create a Personal Access Token

The personal access token is basically a highly encrypted username and password. Any actions you take in Zapier with this personal access token will be attributed to YOU. If it makes sense for your organization, you can also create a “system” user that’s tied to a different email address.

Note: You would still need to make this system user an admin in your Planning Center as mentioned above.

Here are the steps to create the token:

  1. Once logged in to, scroll towards the bottom and click New Personal Access Token
  2. Type in a Description for the token such as “Zapier”
  3. Leave all of the default API versions selected
  4. Click Submit

It’s important that you do not share these application ID and secret that gets generated after you click Submit. It’s for you and your use only.

Setup Zapier with the Planning Center API

Now that you have a personal access token, you can begin making API calls (think of “commands”) to Planning Center through Zapier.

For now, I’m going to assume you already have a Zapier account created with at least the Starter subscription.

  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 Midnight
  7. Click Continue
  8. Click Test Trigger
  9. Click Continue

At this point, your trigger is setup, and you’re ready for the fun part — connecting to Planning Center. First, a little bit more about the trigger step.

The trigger is what kicks off your Zap to begin with. It could be when you receive an email with a certain subject or when a Planning Center Workflow card is created. It could even be when someone unsubscribes from your mailing list. Again, the ideas are limitless!

Let’s setup the actual Planning Center API portion now.

  1. In the Action step, search for Webhooks by Zapier and click on it
  2. Under Event, click on Custom Request
  3. Click Continue
  4. Under Method, select GET
  5. Under URL, paste this in exactly as I have it:[search_name_or_email]=john
  6. In the Basic Auth field, copy and paste in your Application ID from your personal access token, followed by | and then copy and paste your Secret from your personal access token. It will look like: application-id|secret (except with your own details).
  7. Click Continue
  8. Click Test & Review

If everything works correctly, you won’t see any errors. You’ll simply see a message like “A request was sent to Webhooks by Zapier about 7 seconds ago” followed by a bunch of data beneath.

That’s it! You successfully used the “people” Planning Center API to search for person with the name “john” in the person’s name or email address.

Let’s Review

You’re probably thinking… I successfully searched for a name, so what? Well, that’s true, BUT you created the capability to leverage any other Planning Center API resource available. Their API Explorer is a great tool to see what else you can search for, update or integrate with automation.

Getting the right keys and building blocks in place is half the battle, which you’ve now won!

In other articles, I’ll continue to uncover how you can leverage this new tool in your tool belt to build other cool things your church can benefit from.

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