Not only do we want to feature worship leaders on this site, but we also want to feature people or products that make a
difference in our lives and careers as Worship Leaders. In this case, we’ll get two birds with one stone. Jeff Berg is a man who is making a difference in the
life of many worship leaders, pastors and ministries with an online program called Planning Center Online.
Since I began using Planning Center about a year ago at our church, Dutch Fork Christian Church, I’ve encouraged dozens of
church pastors and worship leaders to do the same. And we’ve all been so impressed with it, I thought it would be a good idea to let Jeff tell us about
how this great tool came into existence and where it’s going.
emailing him and asking for an interview, I was surprised to get a quick response from this very busy 27 year old entrepreneur. He granted me a phone
interview right away and from the moment he answered the phone, I knew I was talking, not to some business guy who had just struck gold, but to a humble and Godly man with vision and passion for The Church. In fact, with my first interview question, his response was, “well, first of all, I’m only 27.” The humility in his voice seemed to say, I’m really not that experienced. Of course, I found that not to be the case at all. Read on:
APM: So, how did you get involved in developing software?
JB: I started out as the Director of Creative Technologies at my local church. I was doing a lot, including developing software for all aspects of the church and eventually got involved with the worship team.
APM: A natural transition?
JB: The worship department was the area where creativity was in their realm. They wanted a centralized place for all the information about the weekly services. They were using excel and access, and I told them I could make something that would integrate all of the things they needed.
APM: So what did you do first to get them organized?
JB: I started with a Windows-based application, which worked well until we got to the point of wanting to schedule people. We found it
didn’t meet our needs as a Windows application so I took my spare time and started working on an online version. Over the next six months to a year, I was
able to get it to the point where it was a workable product.
APM: So how did you get it into the field to be tested?
JB: At first, our church used it. Then our worship pastor left and went to another church. He began using it there too. Both churches had success with it, so we booked a booth at the Purpose Driven Worship Conference and gave it a go.
APM: Wow. How did that go for you?
JB: We got a tremendous amount of response from people who said it was exactly what they needed. People were wanting to sign up right
on the spot.
Then, in a humbling style, which I was quickly beginning to see was who he was, Jeff side-barred and said, “of course, we wanted people to try it first before they just signed up for it.” Jeff then asked most of them to go back home, try it out, then join if they liked what they saw. And they did! In droves! A few months later, after placing an ad in Worship Leader Magazine, Jeff says things really got exciting.
JB: “It was January 2007 and we had just placed our first ad in Worship Leader Magazine. Then, things just exploded.”
APM: So how did things change for you after that ad?
JB: We started growing at a pretty good rate. By March of that same year, I went fulltime with Planning Center and we were really growing by then.
We went to as many conferences as we could and continued to grow.
APM: I imagine a lot has changed in your life.
JB: Over the last 6 months, I started to not be able to stay on top of everything we needed to do, so I hired a business guy, Jeff Spillman. Jeff used to be the technical director at our church and we’ve been working hard to keep it going ever since he came on board.
APM: Two Jeffs. Cool. What’s Jeff Spillman’s role and how has that changed yours?
JB: I do the programming and the design of the software, while he handles the support, along with another person we hired, who doubles as
graphic designer. So we’re spreading out the duties as much as we can, but we’re getting it all done really well.
APM: When you were at the local church, did you ever think you’d be creating a software that would be so widely needed and accepted?
JB: I never imagined it would be like this so quickly. I did think one day I’d be working for myself and doing something like this, but this just really hit a chord with churches big and small. A useful item for Worship Leaders, Children’s Directors and such, really saving them a lot of time. It’s been great.
Asked if he would take it to the business sector, Jeff says he gets asked about that pretty often but tends to shy away from that because of his heart and his devotion to helping churches and ministries. According to Berg, “rather than getting distracted by going after another sector, I want to focus on what I know is working and give them 100% of our resources.”
APM: What size church uses Planning Center Online the most?
JB: We don’t ask what size church you are when you sign up, so we really don’t know. But it appears to be churches of all sizes.
APM: In talking to so many churches, what other planning software have you found was being used before yours came along?
JB: A lot of the people we talk to say they were in the midst of trying to create something like this on their own, but then found our product and said, “hey, you’ve done all the work for us, so sign me up.”
APM: It’s clear your heart is set on helping churches focus on their ministry by helping them get organized and making scheduling a lot easier and less time consuming.
JB: People have told us we shave hours and sometimes days off their work week. That’s great to hear.
APM: Other than your software, is there any other essential software churches should have today?
JB: “Other than worship presentation software, I think websites like Worship House Media and Sermon Spice are critical for churches to have really well put together videos. They’re also great to help form a complete service around. They all look really clean and nice. I know some of the creators of these services and they are amazingly talented people who create these things and they’re just great.
I asked Jeff if there was anything else coming down the line for churches that would help us as much as Planning Center has done and he once again pulled the humble card, saying, “we hope to have another product out by the end of they year, but we’re not ready to say anything about that yet.”
Jeff’s most recent download? “I’ve been re-purchasing some music lately, so the last thing I purchased was, I think, Hillsong United – United We Stand.”
Most recent book? “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
APM: What’s a day like in the life of Jeff Berg?
JB: I help at the office with some things, I then read some BLOGS and get caught up on what I’m interested in. I then start working on the next issue with planning center – whatever that may be. I work on advertising and stuff. And with a chuckle, Jeff adds, “and of course, I do interviews.
APM: If you haven’t tried Planning Center Online, do so today! It’s really the best way to pull your worship team, your pastoral staff and your tech team ogether in one central place.
The website: http://www.planningcenteronline.com