Friday, September 13, 2013

Reflection on the Life Cycle of a Ministry - the story of the American Heritage Girls

Woman Interrupted

In 1993, my life’s course changed and I became a “woman interrupted.”  God interrupted my life and called me to found a new organization for girls, the American Heritage Girls (AHG), as a response to the major changes in direction of the Girl Scouts USA.  His voice was clear as to the need for a God -honoring program that utilized some of the scout-type techniques that made the Girl Scouts an effective, transformative organization for generations of girls.

For thirteen years prior to His calling, I served as an active volunteer in GSUSA, using my influence to share the Gospel with my Troop’s members in West Chester, Ohio.  When a choice had to be made as to whom I would serve, Abba Father was my clear choice. 

In retrospect, God had prepared me for the journey on which He had asked me to embark.  He had peppered me with leadership opportunities, instilled a love of country and youth in my heart, and gave me a mind that was inquisitive and determined.  I did not have the educational background, financial resources or experience to launch a nonprofit ministry, but God assured me He would provide all that I needed.

And so it began as so many new ventures begin.  A perceived community need - (God- honoring scout-type organization for girls) - sparked a founding idea and a vision of what could be.  The other founders around my kitchen table brought their program ideas for the new organization and, together, begin creating badge requirements and a skeleton of a program.  Passion ran high which produced quick results and American Heritage Girls was launched within 18 months of its conception.

Laurie Cullen, Patti Garibay - remaining founders
Many of the founders’ passion evaporated when roadblocks seemed to be everywhere.  Without systems and processes developed, issues arose daily.   The pipe dream became an albatross around the necks of the few that remained.  The mission of the new organization was contested.  “God- honoring” was too broad and did not clarify the intent of the mission and seemed to extend the tent too wide.  Confusion resulted, and theological challenges were posed daily. A mission change was needed.  As believers, the leadership team of this new organization knew that confusion does not come from the Father, but from the adversary.

After a prayer -filled Board retreat in the year 2000, five years after its founding, AHG made the bold step of proclaiming its program and goals as “Christ centered”- allowing Churches and private schools to use the program to extend their reach to youth.    Despite the difficulty in making this transfer, the calling on the hearts of the Board of Trustees proved to be ordained.  More people than ever before came forth to offer their talents in organizational management and training.  New ideas erupted from a more diverse community.  And all the while, we were learning.  God allowed us to make small mistakes -skinned knees rather than face plants- which taught us valuable lessons for the future.  We made critical adjustments and once again our faithful Father blessed those changes.  Passion was reignited and prayer was a consistent element of all gatherings of volunteers and girls.  Blessings of resources flowed to allow for paid staff. No longer was the operational unpaid staff simply friends or family members of the founder, but people whose lives had been transformed by God through the work of His ministry.  Christ was blessing our obedience.

The metamorphosis of the fledgling ministry became noticed by the public.   During this time we grew from 100 girls to 10,000 girls. Forty five percent membership increases continue to be the new norm, and attempting to keep ahead of the growth is AHG’s current “modus operandi”. 

Organizational structure is important to reevaluate during this season of AHG as is the management of cash flow.  Governance has changed from operational to policy driven and the Board of Trustees hail from across the nation as do the Troops AHG serves.  I am working diligently on succession planning and building a bench of talent for AHG to enter its third decade of “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”

For me, challenges are no longer considered albatrosses, but opportunities for Him to grow me into the leader He knows I can be.  I have learned humility- that my worth and my ability come from Him alone and the importance of unceasing prayer.  I have learned that His plan is perfect and that He is faithful.  I have learned to open every door He provides in faith and expectation, as He brings His followers to serve AHG with diverse talents and giftings.

Daily I see His love pouring out on other women and men as they too enjoy His divine interruption and call to ministry.  And I, once a woman interrupted, am eternally grateful for God’s calling on my life and look forward to the future of American Heritage Girls and His eternally significant imprint on our nation’s daughters.

                  article published by Outcomes, the Magazine of the Christian Leadership Alliance, Fall, 2013 edition, to see the online version visit and it will be posted soon.

How has God used AHG to interrupt your life so that you could make an impact in the lives of girls?  Share your stories of growth and learning in the comment section of this Blog to be registered in today's birthday celebration contest.  One winner will be chosen to receive paid tuition to AHG’s 2014 National Leadership Conference June 26-28, 2014 in Washington D.C/Northern Virginia.  To learn more about the 2014 NLC, visit

Must be a currently registered AHG Adult Member to win. Winners will be chosen at random and announced next week via AHG’s Facebook Page.

Until Next Time,


John and Carrie said...

Life is busy as a homeschool mom with a deployed husband, but God has called me to be a leader in AHG. I am the troop Vice Coordinator, sherpherd and Tenderheart leader. My passion with AHG that the Lord has laid on my heart is having devotional time with the girls and keeping our troop Christ-centered and faith based, and also making service a way of life. My favorite memory is of a young Tenderheart so excited to tell me the troop's Bible verse that month because it was the first Bible verse she had ever memorized. Glory to God! God has given me peace and strength about my role in AHG in the midst of everything else in my life. I also love how it has brought me closer to my daughter. I am thankful for the friendships God has used AHG to bring together (girls and moms/leaders).

Unknown said...

Thank God for your interruption. I was a Girl Scout for 10 years as a girl and 10 years as a leader for my daughter. Eleven years ago, I moved to another state. I had no friends and no family except my new husband and his family. I decided to volunteer with GSUSA at one of their offices. One of the jobs I was given was putting a religious award information in the leader packs. After putting in over a hundred of these, a lady came up and yelled at me telling me I was not allowed to put them in due to them being religious and I needed to take every one of them back out. I knew then it wasn't the organization it use to be and wasn't for me. It was shortly after that, I met the coordinator of the local AHG troop. God had a plan and I was thankful to become part of that plan. I am now the coordinator of that troop and love every minute of it. Thank God for you and AHG.

Unknown said...

Sometimes I feel like there is no way I can do all the things I need to do, but God always provides the strength and encouragement needed to continue on. We have just had our second official meeting and I'm so happy for the help of the other leaders. Praying that we will be good examples of the love of Christ, and the women God would have us to be. Thank you for American Heritage Girls!

gillstuff said...

I was NOT going to be an AHG leader. I wanted my girls to be involved 2 years ago when our parish troop started, but I was not willing to be a regular contributor...I'd leave that to the moms without jobs, with less children, with more youth or more energy. In the spring of our first year, the Pioneer Unit Leader decided that she was unable to continue and our Troop Coordinator asked me to fill in for the rest of the year. I agreed, but wasn't convinced that I'd stick. Now, as we begin our third year as a troop, I am loving my service as Unit Leader with our Explorers and Pioneers, spending time with two of my girls and growing amid a group of wonderful, holy women committed to this ministry!

Phyllis@Aimless Conversation said...

My life has been recently interrupted by AHG... Actually, it started in January, when my daughter and I attended a Secret Keeper event. It was there we learned of AHG and the cry of my 8yr olds heart was (is) to make "real, true friends." The cry of this momma heart, is for those friends to be encouraging, supportive, and share the same values our family treasures.

I pondered the idea of joining an AHG troop, but discarded the idea when I learned the closest to me is a 45 minute drive. You simply can't build community, or "real, true friends" when you have to drive that far to see them. I figured, surely there are others in my small town who would like to see a troop come to fruition here...

So, my info meeting is scheduled for Monday night, Sept. 16. We already have a church who has agreed to charter us and two of the five board positions filled. Join me in praying for the doors to open if the time is right.

Hopefully, I will be eligible for this prize real soon. =)

hsmomof6 said...

When I became a leader for my daughter's Pathfinder unit 4 years ago, I expected this (being a leader) to be just like the previous 20+ years of being a den leader for her 5 older brothers. Boy was I wrong!

After 3 years as a leader, God showed me an opportunity to start an AHG troop closer to my home at the only Catholic church without a Girl Scout troop. I never expected to start a troop; I was perfectly happy being a unit leader.
Now He is growing me through the "obstacles" that come. Sometimes those obstacles deal with meeting logistics and other times it may be working with other adults. I am learning humility and how to not try to control everything. It is difficult for me but I know this is where God has put me and He has a plan for me. (Jer. 29:11) AHG not only is making women of integrity out of our girls, but from the adults involved too. God is using AHG to change me.

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