In Ephesians 5:19-20, Paul wrote the following:
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
We have included this page in this website so that we can do as Paul commands. This page will be a place where we can regularly and publicly give thanks for the blessings that come our way as we work on this ministry.
Qualified Charitable Distributions (5/8/2021)
In February of 2020, we set up a bank account for the Word-n-Will ministry. Prior to that time, all expenses came out of our personal account and from one donation that we had received. To set up the bank account, Seth and Janene moved money from two of their IRA accounts to the Word-n-Will account. They did this using what is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution or QCD. Because they used a QCD, the money went directly from their IRA to the Word n Will account and none of it was considered taxable income when they filed their tax return. You can use a QCD if you are at least 70 ½ years old, and you can contribute up to $100,000 each year.
This year we wanted to put enough money into the Word-Will bank account so that we could begin the process of adding at least one staff person to our team. We wanted to have enough money in the account to cover the expenses of any additional staff for the rest of the year before we added anyone new to the staff.
This month Seth transferred money from two of his IRAs to the Word-n-Will bank account using QCDs so that we now have sufficient funds to add at least one person to our staff. We are very thankful that Seth was able to put this money into these IRAs before he retired. We are also thankful that we are financially able to invest this money in the Word-n-Will ministry. Finally, we are thankful for QCDs that made this financially feasible.
Positive Feedback (3/25/2021)
This year we received feedback from a Sunday School class that worked through the first four prototype lessons on the Gospel of John. We also received feedback from a retired pastor who worked through some of the first five prototype lessons. For the most part, their feedback was very positive. After we received this feedback, we created a User Feedback page on our website. We then updated our recruitment flyer and added a link to this page so that potential recruits could read comments about our Bible study lessons made by other users.
New Business Cards (1/11/2021)
Because we changed the URL of our website from Word-n-Will.com to Word-n-Will.org, our old business cards needed to be updated. We also simplified our mission statement that is on the business cards. These business cards were designed by Jenn Cain, who also designed our website. She used colors from the website’s color palette in the design of the business cards. We are thankful that we now have an up-to-date business card that we can give to people who we think might be interested in our ministry. The business cards make it easy for them to know how to access our website, and it also reminds them of the mission of our ministry.
The front of the business card gives people the information they need to contact us and to access our website. The back of the card contains our mission statement to remind people of the purpose of our ministry.
Negative Feedback (6/11/2020)
In spite of the onset of Covid-19, a small group from our church that was meeting virtually worked through our first three prototype lessons on the Gospel of John and provided some very helpful feedback. Although a lot of the feedback was negative, the end result was very positive. We took the feedback very seriously and made some significant changes to the lessons based on the problems that the small group members identified. Receiving negative feedback is never an enjoyable experience, but this feedback led to some very significant improvements to the lessons for which we are very thankful.
New Microphone (4/1/2020)
We are thankful for the new Blue Yeti microphone that we purchased. This microphone will improve the quality of our voice recordings in our Bible studies. The new microphone hangs from the ceiling on a boom arm instead of being placed on a stand as was the case with our old microphone. Because the microphone is suspended from the ceiling, it can easily be swung out of the way when not in use. The ability to remove the microphone makes it much easier to switch from recording the audio for a slide to configuring that slide so that the objects that appear on the slide are in sync with the recorded audio. The pop filter that is placed in front of the microphone also looks much more professional than the homemade filter that we were using that was made out of a nylon stocking and a coat hanger!
Recruitment Flyer (3/19/2020)
We are thankful for the professional-looking recruitment flyer that Jenn Cann, who did the design work on our website, designed for us. The flyer contains basic information about the strategy of the Word n Will ministry. It also has links to different pages of our website that would help a student learn about our minsstry so that they could determine if it aligns with God’s calling on their life. Finally, it includes the information they would need to contact us to pursue the possibility of joining our staff.
We created this recruitment flyer to help us recruit and add people to our staff. We want to get this flyer into the hands of students who are pursuing a graduate degree in biblical studies. We plan to email a PDF of this flyer to professors who work with these types of students. We will then ask the professors to email the flyer to any of their students who might be interested in joining our ministry.
New Word-n-Will Website (2/12/2020)
We are very thankful for our new and vastly improved website. The website was built using a new theme that Seth learned about when taking a class at Washtenaw Community College (see below). Seth reworked and reorganized all of the content of the website. One of the biggest improvements is the new homepage. It now provides a quick overview of the ministry with links to other pages that provide detailed descriptions of why we started this ministry, what we are trying to accomplish through this ministry, and our strategy for achieving these objectives. This page will allow people who are interested in this ministry to acquire an overall understanding of the ministry and then to quickly access other pages to gain a deeper understanding in areas that are of interest to them.
Seth hired Jennifer Cain at JHC Communications to do the design work for the website. She did all of the formatting, selected and added the images, made sure everything worked correctly on all types of devices, and gave us a very professional looking website. We are extremely thankful for Jennifer’s expertise and the excellent work that she did on designing our website.
WordPress for Professionals Class (2/12/2020)
In December of 2019, Seth took the WordPress for Professionals class at Washtenaw Community College. The class was very informative and made it clear to Seth that it was definitely time to redesign this website. Seth learned a lot of best practices and other things to consider when redesigning the Word‑n‑Will website. The instructor also recommended SiteGround for a hosting service and Theme.co as the company from which to purchase a new theme. Seth followed the instructor’s advice and is very happy with both the new hosting service and the Theme.co Pro theme. Seth is confident that the new hosting service and new theme will continue to be an excellent choice for years to come. Without all of the excellent information that he acquired through taking the class, he would not have been prepared to take on the challenge of totally reworking this website and making it a much more effective tool for the Word‑n‑Will ministry. We want to thank Washtenaw Community Collage for offering this course.
First Module of the Gospel of John (9/2/19)
We recently completed the prototype studies for the first module of the Gospel of John. This module consists of three studies. The first study is on the gospel's prologue (John 1:1-18). The second study covers the rest of John 1, which contains testimonies about Jesus by John the Baptist and three of the initial disciples of Jesus. The third study is on John 2:1-22 that describes two third day signs.
The completion of this first module is an important milestone because we can now ask small groups to review this set of studies and to give us feedback on them. This feedback from small group members will help us determine the strengths and weaknesses of the studies from a users' perspective. This feedback will then help us make changes to the studies to address the study’s weaknesses and to further enhance their strengths.
We also want to recruit one or more Johannine scholars to review the studies in this module and to critique our understanding of John. We will then carefully evaluate their feedback and update the studies where needed.
Father Lawrence Lew Photos (3/4/19)
In addition to photos of artwork that are posted on the websites of art museums (see below), we have also found a lot of other photos that we are able to use to add another visual component to our studies on the Gospel of John. One of the photographers, whose photos we frequently use, is Father Lawrence Lew, O. P. He has posted thousands of pictures on flickr that he has taken on his travels around the world. He is an excellent photographer and a lot of his pictures are of biblically based artwork.
The photo on the left (which has been cropped) is one of seven of his photos that I used for the study on John 1:19-51. It is a photo of a painted panel on the ceiling of the Vatican Museum. The uncropped photo depicts John the Baptist standing with two of his disciples and pointing to Jesus, the Lamb of God. These two men, one of whom is Andrew, then followed Jesus, and he invited them to come and stay with him. Father Lew also has taken a lot of photos of stained-glass windows from churches that depict scenes found in the Gospel of John.
We are very grateful that Father Lew has taken so many photos of artwork that are biblically‑based, and posted them on flickr. We have used his photos in both of the first two Bible studies on the Gospel of John that we have created, and they have significantly enhanced the quality of these studies. We will definitely be using many more of his photos in future studies.
Photos of Artwork in Art Museum (3/4/19)
A few months ago, Pat Browning, who has been reviewing the lessons we have created, recommended that we search The National Gallery of Art in Washington D. C. website to find photos of artwork that we could incorporate into our studies on the Gospel of John. When we visited their website, we learned that we could legally download and use their photos for free because the Word-n-Will ministry is a non-profit. We then realized that we should be able to find other art museums that post photos of their artwork on their websites that can be legally downloaded and used for non-commercial purposes. The following are some of the art museums that we found so far that have excellent photos of artwork that can be downloaded:
- The National Gallery in the United Kingdom
- Paul Getty Museum
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
From the websites of these art museums, as well as other websites, we have been able to find numerous photos that have enhanced the quality of the studies for the first chapter of the Gospel of John.
We are very thankful to Pat Browning for her suggestion. We are also very thankful for the art museums that have made it possible for us to use their photos of artwork to add an important visual component to our Bible studies. We are also thankful for the creation of the internet that has made all of this possible.
At our quarterly board meeting in September, pastor Ken Gilmore recommended that Seth, our founder, should use LinkedIn to connect with people who might be interested in helping build the Word-n-Will ministry. Although he opened a LinkedIn account several years ago, he had never used it. He has now added content to it so that it can be used as a networking tool for the ministry. Hopefully, it will help us connect with Bible scholars who would be willing to review some of the studies, students who are pursuing a master’s in biblical studies and might be interested in joining the ministry, and others who might be interested in providing some type of support for the ministry. If you google “Seth Seppanen,” the link to my LinkedIn account should appear at the top of the page. Thank you Ken for this excellent suggestion!
More Feedback (10/4/18)
The long-term success of this ministry is dependent on the quality of the feedback that we receive from those who use the studies. User feedback will allow us to make improvements to the studies and make them more effective. After completing the prototype study on the prologue to the Gospel of John, Seth asked Pat Browning if she would be willing to review it. Pat goes to the same church that Seth and Janene attend, and a few years ago she was the leader of our small group. We are thankful that she not only was willing to review the study, but that she carefully worked through it, found things that needed to be corrected, gave helpful words of encouragement, and provided other feedback that made the study better. Seth then asked her if she would be willing to review the Praxis Nonprofit Accelerator application on which he was working. She again said yes and provided valuable feedback that made it possible for me to improve my application. Thank you Pat for your feedback!
Prototype Lesson (9/7/18)
We recently completed the first prototype study for the Gospel of John. The study is on the prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18). It is a fully functional study. We refer to it as a prototype because it still needs to go through a review process and be updated based on feedback that we receive before it becomes a finished study.
We see this prototype study as a major milestone in the overall process of creating studies for the entire Gospel of John. Now that we have this prototype study, we can begin the process of asking people to review it and then improve it based on their feedback. We would like to find one or more Johannine scholars who would be willing to review this and other prototype studies on John. We would also like to find several small groups who would be willing to use the prototype studies as they are created and to provide feedback that we can use to make the studies as effective as possible for small groups.
Richard Bauckham (9/7/18)
This spring when Seth and Janene were at the University of Notre Dame for a brief visit with their oldest daughter, we decided to visit their bookstore to see if they had a commentary that Seth was interested in purchasing that was written by a Catholic scholar. Unfortunately, they did not have this commentary, but they did have the Gospel of Glory by Richard Bauckham. This book is a collection of some of his works on John. Some of the chapters are based on lectures he had given, while other chapters had previously been included in other works. Although the book is not a commentary, Seth found it to be very insightful and helpful, and it will be an important resource as he develops studies for the Gospel of John.
Since then, Seth has also read an earlier book by Bauckham on the Gospel of John entitled Testimony of the Beloved Disciple. One of the reasons that Seth likes Bauckham’s writings is because the two of them agree on numerous issues where there is disagreement among many scholars. For example, they both believe that Jesus’ walking on the water in John chapter 6 is not one of the seven signs, and that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the final and seventh sign. Seth plans to soon purchase and read his book entitled Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that he updated in 2017.
501(c)(3) Status Approved (6/28/18)
We received good news today from the IRS. They approved our request for 501 (c) (3) status as a non‑profit ministry. The Word-n-Will ministry is now exempt from federal income taxes and donors can deduct their donations to the ministry when filing their federal income taxes. Having 501 (c) (3) non‑profit status will play a critical role in the future as the ministry seeks to raise funds to support additional team members.
Recently, Seth and Janene drove to a wedding in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As they drove, Seth searched for a radio station that was playing Christian music. Instead, he found a station that was discussing Christian music. Since Seth is musically‑challenged, he was surprised to find the discussion interesting. The host of the show was interviewing one of the authors of the book entitled Sing!
Between the wedding and the reception, we had time to go to Baker Book House where we were able to purchase the book Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The following is one of the statements in the book that clearly spoke to me:
“We sing because we’re created to, commanded to, and compelled to. And when we sing great truths, great things happen. Christ‑filled, Spirit‑prompted singing moves out in concentric circles changing your own heart and mind … changing your family … changing your church … and changing this world.” (page 35)
Now you might ask “Why are you thankful for discovering the book Sing! and what does this discovery have to do with the Word‑n‑Will ministry?” The reason Seth was thankful for discovering this book was because it made him realize that singing God’s truths can and should play an important role in the work of our ministry. The primary focus of the small groups that use our studies is application, and application requires heart transformation. As we design the studies, we need to find a way to help the members of each small group join in singing the truths that they are studying. God has commanded us to sing his truths because He knows that singing can transform our hearts and lives.
Our Small Group (12/15/17)
Seth is thankful for the small group that he and Janene are a part of because the group has agreed to let Seth lead them in a Bible study on the Gospel of John. Having deadlines for preparing the studies for our small group makes it easy for him to stay focused and productive. Although he has taught John on several occasions since 1980, he now has the time to do a more thorough study of each passage. As he prepares the studies for our small group, one of his goals is to do his best to determine the correct interpretation of the text. He begins by carefully studying the text on his own and then reading and taking notes on 20 or more commentaries on the Gospel of John. All of the information that he gathers through his study will be extremely helpful when it comes time to create the actual e-Learning Bible study studies.
Commentaries on the Gospel of John (12/15/17)
Seth is thankful that there are so many good commentaries on the Gospel of John. The commentaries in this picture are just some of the commentaries that he is currently reading as he leads a study of the Gospel of John for our small group. These commentaries provide a wealth of information that would be next to impossible for him to gather on his own. Although these commentaries contain different and often conflicting viewpoints, they are very helpful as he tries to determine the correct interpretation of John.
As he reads these commentaries, he marks the passages in them that he wants to collect for later review. He then uses the Office Lens app to capture these quotations and move them into Microsoft OneNote. In OneNote, he organizes the quotations so that he can easily compare the viewpoints of different scholars. The information that he gathers from these commentaries will help to lay a solid foundation for when he begins to create the actual e-Learning Bible study studies for the Word‑n‑Will ministry.
More Helpful Feedback (11/6/17)
Seth is very thankful for the feedback that he received concerning the Word‑n‑Will Strategy presentation from Dr. John Oswalt, Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. After receiving his feedback, Seth reworked the entire presentation and reduced its length by more than 50 percent. The message of the presentation remains the same, but it is now delivered in a far more effective manner. This strategy presentation will play a critical role in building our ministry team so the improvements made because of his feedback will have a long-term positive impact.
Office Lens (7/7/17)
Office Lens is a free Microsoft app that you can install on your phone. With this app, you can take a picture of a page that you are reading, and with two clicks on your phone, you can convert the picture into a Word document that is saved to Microsoft OneDrive. You can then open this Word document from your computer, and copy and paste any portion of the document into another document.
Seth uses Office Lens to collect notes from the works of scholars that are not in eBook format, and it saves him a tremendous amount of time as he gathers and organizes the notes in Microsoft OneNote. He then uses these notes as he tries to determine the correct interpretation and application of a passage, as well as when he creates the actual studies.
Before Seth discovered Office Lens, he had to scan each document using his printer, copy the scanned picture into OneNote, convert the picture into editable text, and then copy the desired quotations to another location in OneNote. Gathering quotations by scanning them with a printer was much faster than typing them manually, but Office Lens significantly simplifies the process of getting these quotations into OneNote for future use.
Storyline 3 (6/12/17)
The program that we use to create our e-Learning studies is called Storyline. Storyline 3 was released in April of this year. The great thing about Storyline 3 is that it supports responsive output. With responsive output, the e-Learning courses that we develop can now be viewed on any device that can access the Internet. Because the content is responsive, it responds differently depending on the device used to access the Internet. For each type of device, the content is displayed so that it makes the best use of the space available on the screen.
We are very thankful for this new Storyline 3 functionality. It will make our content far more accessible because it can now be viewed on a computer, a tablet, or a smart phone (instead of just on a computer and iPad). The timing of the release of this new functionality could not have been better.
Strategy Presentations (6/9/17)
The Word-n-Will Strategy presentation is finally completed (although it is still undergoing initial reviews and will more than likely be updated). It provides a clear picture of why this ministry is needed and the strategy we plan to use to address this need. This presentation will help anyone who is interested in this ministry gain a much fuller understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. It is about an hour long.
Although it took "only" three months to create this online presentation, the ideas it presents have been in various stages of development for at least the last thirty years. It is great to finally have these ideas organized in a clear and powerful presentation.
The Demo Lesson is Done (2/24/17)
After many long years the demo study for the Word-n-Will ministry is finally done. If Seth had known how long it was going to take to complete this study, he probably would never have started it. However, he is very happy that he completed it because it will play an extremely critical role in helping get this ministry up and running.
We will use this demo study when we recruit members for the board of directors as well as the initial members of the staff. This demo study will give them some idea of the type of studies that we plan to create for this ministry.
Creating this demo study has also been an important learning experience. The knowledge and expertise gained through the process of creating this demo study will be very helpful as we begin to create actual studies.
Seth is thankful that he can now work full time on this ministry without pay. Seth did not get his first full-time job until the year 2000. He started in the shipping department of a small software company making $12 an hour. Over the next year they had to lay off about 80% of the employees, but he was fortunate enough to remain employed. During that time, he was able to acquire some basic technical writing skills. These skills helped him find a technical writing job in 2002 when he was laid off. Over the next 15 years he worked as a technical writer for four different software companies and saw his salary increase steadily. During all of this time, his wife, Janene, worked diligently as a daycare mother, preschool teacher, and nanny. So although he didn't get a full-time job until 2000, and Janene never got paid an enormous amount of money, he is now able to devote himself to this ministry full time without pay. We have definitely been blessed.
Helpful Feedback (1/9/17)
For a Christmas present, Seth and Janene’s daughter, Hannah, offered to carefully review this website and then to make recommendations on how it could be improved. She had previously been part of ministry startup and had firsthand experience creating an effective website. As a result of her feedback, Seth has made several significant improvements to this website.
Inspiration from India (12/19/16)
In October, Seth was on a flight from Detroit to Minneapolis to join in the celebration of his mother's 90th birthday. The man sitting next to him was a pastor from India. During the flight, he mentioned that he would be retiring in about 10 days and would then begin to work full time on this ministry.
After sharing his plans with this pastor from India, he asked Seth if he had a business card. He had to admit that he did not yet have one. He then realized that not only did he need to make creating a business card a priority, he also needed to make creating a website a priority because the business card would direct people to the website. Seth is thankful that this pastor asked him this question, which resulted in him giving the development of the Word-n-Will website a higher priority.
During his mother's 90th birthday celebration, he had a conversation with a woman who was his 6th grade teacher. After sharing with her his plans for developing this ministry and his conversation with the pastor from India, she said she had a book in her car that she wanted to give him. The book she gave him is Compelled ... to Share His Love by Dr. PG Vargis. This book is about how God used him to develop an amazing ministry in India that has had a dramatic impact on that country. Seth is thankful for receiving this book as it provided inspiration and encouragement as he began the challenging task of developing this ministry.
According to Wikipedia "Sisu is a Finnish word which loosely means stoic determination, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness and is held by Finns themselves to express their national character." Seth’s father was Finnish so he learned about sisu as he was growing up. Seth is thankful that God gave him a good dose of sisu or he would have certainly given up on this ministry many years ago. God planted the seed for this ministry in his heart over 50 years ago and now that seed is finally beginning to sprout. For more information about the long development process of this ministry, see Our Staff.
Note: When a person is not Finnish but is married to a Finn, they usually define sisu simply as "stubborn."
One of our goals for 2017 is to submit a compelling application to Praxis. Seth had never heard of Praxis until a few months ago when he read an article in Christianity Today that made a brief reference to them. He then searched for them on the Internet and determined that it would be worth our time and effort to submit an application in late 2017. If our application is one of the twelve that is accepted, then we will have the opportunity to work closely with them in 2018 to accelerate the growth of our ministry.
Seth would not have read the article in Christianity Today if he had not subscribed to it earlier in the year. Although he had subscribed to Christianity Today, he often did not read much or any of it (sorry CT). Seth is thankful that he became a subscriber and that for some reason he did read the article that mentioned Praxis. He is also thankful that we will have the opportunity to submit a compelling application.
Building This Website (12/9/16)
Seth began working on this website the day after Thanksgiving in 2016. Up to that time, he had never created a website and had no idea of where to begin.
Several weeks earlier he had received a catalog in the mail for courses at a local community college. Although he would normally ignore this type of mail, for some reason he began to page through it. He soon discovered that they offered a course on developing websites using WordPress. At the time, he had no idea what WordPress was.
However, when he began the process of creating this website, he remembered the course on WordPress and searched on the Internet for WordPress. He soon discovered that there is a WordPress.com site and a WordPress.org site and that these two sites provide totally different ways of creating and hosting a website. After further investigation, he was able to determine that WordPress.org was the best long-term option for the Word‑n‑Will ministry website because it provided the most versatility. Even though WordPress.org has a much steeper learning curve than other options, he believes it will be able to meet our ever-expanding needs. Seth is very thankful that he discovered WordPress.org and that he decided to use it.
Hosting This Website (12/9/16)
When you use WordPress.org, you have to select a theme that controls the look of the website. There are currently over 10,000 themes to choose from so it is somewhat of a daunting task for a newbie. Seth is thankful that he was able to find the Churchope theme fairly quickly. He is also thankful that it was discounted because of the continuation of a black Friday sale. We will probably find a much better theme in the future, but this theme will certainly meet our needs for the near future.
Finding a WordPress Theme (12/9/16)
When you use WordPress.org, you have to select a theme that controls the look of the website. There are currently over 10,000 themes to choose from so it is somewhat of a daunting task for a newbie. I am thankful that I was able to find the Churchope theme fairly quickly. I'm also thankful that it was discounted because of the continuation of a black Friday sale. We will probably find a much better theme in the future, but this theme will certainly meet our needs for the near future.