Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amish Youth, Rumspringa

Mural at Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center
 We, at the Millersburg, Ohio, Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast are often asked about Rumspringa, a term, literally translated, meaning "running around."  Life dramatically changes for the Old Order Amish young person upon turning 16 years of age.  The entire family and community realizes, that upon reaching 16, the teenager will experience freedom they've never before had and parents have little or no jurisdiction in their teenager's social life.  Unlike the New Order Amish church, the Old Order church does not provide any structured social leadership for their youth.  Parents, who, they themselves experienced Rumspringa, ask few or no questions as their youth seize this "Rite of Passage."  In the Old Order and stricter sects, youth who, as children, were tightly disciplined and governed and have made few decisions on their own, now have weekend freedom without supervision and no curfew.

Rumspringa, for the most part, relates to weekends.  In day-to-day living, parents maintain their control of the family. For example, parents have a voice in what kind of job their young person has and how they spend their money.

When one joins the Amish church, they commit themselves to submission to God and accountability to the brotherhood and the ordnung.  The ordnung, usually unwritten, is an agreed-upon set of rules prescribed by the church that governs behavior, dress, and the implementation of, or the forbidding of certain technologies and worldy influences. Only when a young person over age 16 is a church member can they be disciplined.  Once a member, violations of the ordnung will result in disciplinary action.

Depiction of Amish Wedding at Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center

Rumspringa is not the same for all and does not necessarily mean wild parties, alcohol, drugs, or getting a car. It is simply a term referring to the time period from age 16 until they join the church when a young person is free to socialize, unrestricted, with the young people.  Many Amish youths, especially New Order Amish youth, wish to please their parents and elders and maintain an exemplary lifestyle, participating in youth volleyball games, singings, and other wholesome community and social activities.

For others, Rumspringa offers an opportunity for unsupervised weekend socializing, parties, or "whatever."  Because they are not church members, parents and the community believe they cannot tell them what to do.  Parents and church leaders, who they themselves in their youth, experienced Rumspringa, believe that they cannot forbid it; and the youth would say, "You did it too."  In the Amish society, whatever was done by past generations is considered acceptable.

Enjoying Each Other's Company in Mt. Hope

Amish youth can choose when they will join the church, not if they want to join.  It is the expectation of the parents that their son or daughter will join.  Most often Amish young people join the church in preparation for marriage.  The parents will not give them a wedding and the church will not marry them if they are not members.

The New Order Amish, who embrace salvation, are more committed to addressing the moral and religious concerns of their youth and emphasize more accountability to God for high moral and spiritual standards.  Even though embracing salvation as a free gift, the New Order youth still must follow the traditional expectations of the society - keeping the traditional dress forms, the German dialect, horse and buggy transportation, and a commitment to basic Amish ideology.

Whether Old or New Order, the Amish are concerned that their children and grandchildren not drift into worldly ways.  Holmes County Ohio is the largest community of Amish in the world.  For in depth research material, visit the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, Ohio, enjoy the 25' historic mural, and avail yourself to the vast resources of books available for purchase.

Mr. & Mrs. Joe Keim
 We support Ministry to Amish People, MapMinistry.orghttp://www.mapministry.org/.  This is the best organization we have found that is giving positive direction to those who leave the Amish.

Consider a stay at the Millersburg, Ohio, Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast where owners, Paul and Loretta will answer your questions about rumspringa.

Submitted by Loretta Coblentz
November 15, 2011

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