Our Annual Reports

At the end of each year, we create a report on what we accomplished and didn’t accomplish in the previous year.

2019 Annual Report

In 2019, we continued to lay the foundation for the Word‑n‑Will ministry. The following are the major accomplishments for the year:

Studies for the Gospel of John

We completed the first module for the Gospel of John. This module covers all of chapters 1 and 2 (except for the last three verses of chapter 2). It consists of three Bible studies. After we completed these studies, we went back and updated them several times based on feedback we received.

Completing the first module is significant because we can now have small groups work through this module and provide us feedback. This feedback will help us see what we are doing right, as well as things we need to change to make the studies more effective.

Although we had hoped to complete the second module of the Gospel of John as well, we did get a good start on it. We were overly optimistic to think we could create lessons for all of the first five chapters of John in 2019. We also spent more time than planned on revising the lessons after we had initially finished them. The updates to these lessons, though time consuming, will greatly improve future lessons.

We also continued to build our library of books related to the Gospel of John. We currently have 36 commentaries on the Gospel of John and about a half dozen other books about John. We also found valuable insights in books that are not specifically related to John that we were able to incorporate into the lessons.

Website

In December, Seth took a WordPress for Professionals class at Washtenaw Community College. Seth took this class to become more knowledgeable about WordPress before beginning the process of upgrading the Word-n-Will website. Seth found this class to be extremely informative, and it will be very helpful as he works to upgrade the website.

Earlier in the year, Seth purchased a new domain (Word-n-Will.org) after it was pointed out to him that nonprofits usually have a domain that ends with .org instead of.com. After taking the WordPress class, he began creating a new website with the new domain using a new hosting service (SiteGround) and the Pro theme from Theme.co. He also spent a great deal of time working on the content for the new Home page. He wants this page to give anyone interested in our ministry a quick overview of what we are trying to accomplish, why we believe it is important, and how we plan to accomplish it. He hopes to have a fully functional redesigned website early in 2020.

Earlier in the year Seth updated the Gospel of John feedback form that is on the website based on feedback that he had received.

Bible Study Reviewers

We had planned to get several small groups to work through our first module of studies on John. We created a flyer that was sent to small group leaders this past fall, but there was no response from them. We now realize that we need to use a more personal approach. Seth has personally talked with members of two small groups who shared an interest in working through the first module on John with their small group in 2020.

We also hoped to get a least one biblical scholar to review the first module of the Gospel of John. Unfortunately, we did not make any headway on this goal in 2019.

Building the Team

We would have liked to add at least one new member to our board of directors in 2019, but were unable to do so. Concerning our goal of connecting with students who are pursuing graduate degrees in biblical studies, we created a draft of a flyer to send to students who are in these degree programs. The flyer is designed to concisely describe the mission and strategy of our ministry and to give students the steps they can take to learn more about our ministry and to connect with us.

We also contacted a person who works for a Christian publisher and got a ballpark figure of the salary for someone starting out in this field. Finally, we learned that the job market for people getting graduate degrees in biblical studies is currently very tight. In fact, one scholar tells his students who are pursuing graduate degrees in biblical studies to be sure to have a plan B and to be working on it while they are in graduate school. If we effectively connect with students in these graduate programs, we should be able to find some who would be interested in joining our team.

Finances

The expenses for this year where just over $1000, and we had our first sizable donation that covered almost all of these expenses.

This year we submitted our second application to Praxis and were rejected again. Fortunately, they improved the application process so we did not have to spend a significant amount of time on the application. Instead of completing a lengthy and detailed application, we simply completed a very short application, which they used to determine if we would be a candidate for completing the more detailed application. We don’t know if our application was rejected because our ministry is not yet big enough for them to be interested in working with us or because they are not interested in what we are trying to do.

Miscellaneous Accomplishments

Seth read two books on managing nonprofits. Although they had a lot of good ideas, he discovered that most of the issues they addressed are for nonprofits that are larger and more developed than our ministry.

This year we received permission to use some photos in our prototype lessons that were created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are photos of real people dressed to depict characters in the Gospel of John. These photos will help people visualize the events described in John.

We received feedback from a couple of new people this year. Some of this feedback resulted in us making some significant improvements to our Bible studies. Some of the other feedback has helped us see how we could improve our website, as well as improving the fliers we created to recruit small groups to review the first module of John.

2018 Annual Report

In 2018, we continued to lay the foundation for the Word‑n‑Will ministry that began in 2017. The following are the major accomplishments for 2018:

Board of Directors

We selected three people for the board of directors: Seth Seppanen, Janene Seppanen, and Ken Gilmore. The board met in September and December and plans to meet once a quarter in 2019.

501(c)(3) Status

With a board of directors in place, we were then able to begin the process of acquiring 501 (c) (3) status for our ministry. We used Floyd Green Financial Services to assist us in this process. We became incorporated on June 5th and received 501 (c) (3) status from the IRS on June 19th.

CSB License

After Biblica would not grant us the right to use the NIV in our online studies because the studies have “a commentary flair,” we approached Holman Bibles to see if we could use the CSB (Christian Standard Bible). After some discussions via email, we were able to agree on a ten-page license that gives Word‑n‑Will permission to use the CSB in our studies. Each study will now include a “CSB Copyright Information” in its introductory slides. We will now use the CSB text throughout our studies, except for brief excerpts from other translations.

Studies for the Gospel of John

We completed the first prototype study for the prologue of the Gospel of John. This prototype study is a fully-functional study that will be finalized after being updated based on feedback from selected reviewers. As we were working on the second prototype study, we discovered two significant ways in which to enhance the studies. We then went back and updated the first prototype study with these enhancements.

Although we did not complete prototype studies for the first module of John as we had hoped, which would be the first three studies, we did complete a large portion of the work on the second prototype study. We also completed additional pre-prototype studies bringing the total to six.

We also continued to build our library of books related to the Gospel of John. We currently have 37 books on the Gospel of John with most of them being commentaries. As we worked on the studies for the first six chapters of John, we gathered quotations from many of these books. These quotations provide scholarly insights as we develop the studies and some of them get incorporated into the studies.

Praxis Application

In October, we submitted an application to the nonprofit accelerator program of Praxis. Praxis is a Christian organization that helps Christian nonprofit entrepreneurs accelerate the start-up of their ministry. If our application is accepted, it would give us access to a group of experienced mentors and the opportunity to share our vision with a group of more than 150 Christian philanthropists. If our application is not accepted, we hope to learn from the experience so that we can submit an even better application next year. We will find out if our application is accepted by the end of January. For more information about Praxis, see Praxis Nonprofit Accelerator.

Team Building

This year we began to reach out to schools that offer graduate degrees in Biblical Studies with the long‑term goal of finding students who would join our ministry upon graduation. We made attempts to connect with Asbury Theological Seminary and Wheaton College. So far we have not connected with any students, but we have only begun to develop this process of making connections.

In addition to our board of directors, our ministry has been blessed by the work of Pat Browning. She provided helpful feedback on the Praxis application as well as the first prototype study on John. She also provided much appreciated and helpful words of encouragement.

2017 Annual Report

The primary goal of the Word‑n‑Will ministry in 2017 was to lay the foundation for the ministry. To this end, I had a set of goals that I hoped to accomplish in 2017. Although I failed to reach some of these goals in 2017, I believe I was able to make important strides in laying the foundation for the ministry. I now realize that my expectations of what could be accomplished in the first year of the ministry was somewhat unrealistic.

Word-n-Will Website

One of the goals completed in 2017 was to create the Word-n-Will website, and for this website to include an online strategy presentation and an e-Learning demo Bible study study. The Word‑n‑Will Strategy presentation describes the need for the Word‑n‑Will ministry and the four key elements of its strategy that I believe are necessary in order to address this need. This strategy presentation will be extremely helpful when recruiting people to be a part of this ministry. It will help prospective team members see the need the ministry plans to address and how it plans to address that need.

The e-Learning demo study is on the epilogue of the Book of Revelation. This demo study is an example of the type of studies that I believe the Word-n-Will ministry should create. For anyone interested in the ministry, it provides a clear picture of the type of studies that I want the ministry to create. This demo study includes both teaching and interactive content where the students answer questions based on their own study of the text. This demo study, like all future studies, can be accessed for free from any device that can connect to the internet.

Studies for the Gospel of John

I had hoped to complete the studies for the first module of the Gospel of John. Although I did not reach this goal, the amount of overall work that I was able to complete for the Gospel of John studies exceeded my expectations.

In the Fall of 2017, the small group in which my wife and I are members agreed to study the Gospel of John and to let me lead the study. Having taught the Gospel of John on several occasions since 1980, I had already read numerous commentaries on John. However, I decided to reread those commentaries and significantly expand the number of commentaries I was reading.

I am now reading and taking extensive notes on more than twenty commentaries. To facilitate the note-taking process, I am using a smart phone app called Office Lens. With this app, I take a picture of a page of a book and with two clicks turn it into a Word document. I then copy, paste, and organize the desired portions of the text into Microsoft OneNote. I can then quickly review what I considered to be important insights from numerous scholars as I’m working on a study.

I also began to create what I call pre‑prototype studies. These studies consist of a set of interactive slides that can be viewed on any device that has access to the internet. When we meet as a small group, the small group members access the slides on their smart phone, tablet, or computer. Although the slides do not include any audio, they give each small group member access to the visual content of the study. As I lead the study, I provide the needed verbal content while encouraging as much group discussion as possible. I believe these pre‑prototype studies will greatly facilitate the process of creating the actual studies. Creating these pre‑prototype studies has also expanded my e-Learning development skill set. I also created study questions and other handouts for our small group that should also be helpful when creating the actual studies.

Unfinished Goals

One of the goals that was not reached in 2017 was the selection of a board of directors. I underestimated the difficulty of this task. However, good progress was made towards this end, and the members of the board of directors should be finalized early in 2018.

Because we did not have a board of directors, we could not begin the process of acquiring 501(c)(3) status. Without 501(c)(3) status, we also could not begin to raise financial support, submit an application to Praxis, or begin to recruit others to join the team.