Growing Up Amish 3-Book Giveaway & Interview Part 2

Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years is the new book by Richard Stevick, professor emeritus of psychology at Messiah College. From the book description:

 In the second edition of Growing Up Amish, Stevick draws on decades of experience working with and studying Amish adolescents across the United States to produce this well-rounded, definitive, and realistic view of contemporary Amish youth. Besides discussing the impact of smartphones and social media usage, he carefully examines work and leisure, rites of passage, the rise of supervised youth groups, courtship rituals, weddings, and the remarkable Amish retention rate. Finally, Stevick contemplates the potential of electronic media to significantly alter traditional Amish practices, culture, and staying power.

Last week we asked for your questions, quite a few of which Rich answered in Part 1.  In Part 2 below, Rich answers over a dozen more of your questions on Amish youth, Ordnung, differences among Amish, and many other topics.

A big thanks to Rich, as he really went above and beyond in answering so many questions here and on the original post.

Growing Up Amish Rumspringa Years StevickWin one of 3 copies of Growing Up Amish

Johns Hopkins University Press has kindly provided 3 copies of Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years as a giveaway for Amish America readers.

To enter, leave a comment or question on this post.

If you already asked a question on Part 1, you can also comment here for an extra entry.

We’ll draw 3 winners at random and post them here next Wednesday, June 25th.

Rich Stevick Interview Part 2: Your Questions

Trish in Indiana: In the Amish communities in my area, there have been serious problems of youth getting into drug abuse. This problem is not, of course, unique to the Amish, and the Amish make no effort to deny that it exists, but I wonder if your research has given you any perspective on a specifically Amish response to the issue.

Richard Stevick: Trish, my sense is that illicit drug use among Amish youth has certainly declined in Lancaster County, PA, where I have had the most access to information. I write that the big turn-around started there after THE 1998 FBI drug bust in which three youth raised in Amish homes were convicted of selling drugs to Amish youth, drugs obtained from the notorious Pagans motorcycle gangs.

Rich Stevick Growing Up Amish Author Photo
Professor Richard Stevick

Concerned parents sent a letter to all the bishops asking them to read it in their districts. It described what to look for in a person using drugs. Also, a new “gang,” i.e. youth group, was started that had an absolutely no-drugs/no drinking requirement. This, and the adverse publicity to the problem, kick-started the movement to supervised youth groups, now the norm in Lancaster. By all reports, drug use is way down compared with that in the parents’ generation.

I cannot speak with authority on the other big settlements, Holmes Co in OH, N. Indiana, and Geauga County, OH, but I’m sure that the problem exists. I’m also sure that the drug problem is characteristic of a minority of Amish youth, with marijuana being the drug of choice. Rumors of meth labs in Indiana surface periodically, but I have not tracked the authenticity of those rumors. In general, I believe things are better than they were 15 or 20 years ago. “Devil’s Playground” behavior is definitely at the extreme end of the wildness spectrum. And Lancaster County’s experience may offer a model to other communities who are still struggling.

Trish: Have you discussed how the Amish community attempts to deal with young people who may develop problems with drugs like meth, or for that matter alcohol?

Rich: Google “Amish Youth Vision Project” and also James Cates, its founder, to see a carefully thought out response to alcohol abuse and drug use in Northern Indiana.

Trish: Is this behavior something that most youth who get involved with it are able to set aside when they enter the church and marry, or is there a “silent epidemic” continuing among Amish adults?

Rich: I doubt that it is a silent epidemic, although I hear occasionally from Amish friends that a certain person in the community has been negatively affected by his drug abuse during his rumspringa years. Incidentally, I am amazed by the seeming lack of Amish adult alcoholics, given the weekend binging of a significant minority of youth. One of my Amish friends conjectured that the scarcity of adult alcoholics might be attributed to his belief that when mainstream youth abuse alcohol, it is often an attempt at self-medication for dysfunctional families or childhood abuse whereas Amish drinking is more likely a recreational activity. This may be over-simplified; or it may reflect truth.

Good questions, Trish. You may have better insights on the Indiana scene than I do.

Farm High Shot
Lancaster farm. This photo and all those below by Ed C.

Sheila Rose: You mentioned your students staying first with the Lancaster Amish, and later, with the Holmes County Amish, and stated that there were differences between the two. What are some of the most outstanding differences between the Lancaster and Holmes County Amish? Thank you.

Rich: Hi, Sheila, lots of superficial differences exist, e.g., clothing styles, Deitsch accents, holidays observed, singings or lack thereof, carriage designs, bicycles versus scooters, etc, etc.

The significant differences have to do with the following:

  • All Lancaster settlements are under the same Ordnung, or set of rules/guidelines, whereas Holmes/Wayne/Stark Counties have a diversity of affiliations (Amish denominations, if you will).
  • Lancaster County has no New Order Amish, unlike Holmes County.
  • Almost all Lancaster County youth attend Sunday night singings. Probably half, at most, do in Ohio.
  • Many Holmes County Amish do not practice a strict shunning (Streng Meidung), whereas all Lancaster settlements do. I discuss this at more length in my book.

When my students finish their first home stay in Lancaster, they assume that they pretty much know all about Amish life. After they experience their Holmes County home stay, they develop some Amish humility on that subject 🙂

Lindsay Ems: I’m wondering, Dr. Stevick, have you seen any changes in how young people are preparing for their future professional lives given a quickly changing economy? Are they starting to envision new careers for themselves? If so, how do new technologies become part of this process? Thanks!

Rich: That’s a good question. My sense is that older youth are certainly aware of the changing economic and technological scenes and are giving thought to how and where they might fit in. My other sense is that the school curricula in the private Amish schools have not changed much beyond the traditional Three Rs. Karen Johnson-Weiner would be a good one to ask. Or check her excellent book on Amish education, Train Up a Child.

By the way, the 15 year old son of one of our Amish friends in Lancaster County was asked by the narrator on the PBS documentary The Amish—a wonderful film—what occupation he might consider when he “grows up.” If I recall correctly, he rattled off a dozen and a half occupations, all of which were traditional manual skills jobs. Of course, increased numbers of Amish, at least in the large settlements, are doing desk and/or computer work.

Galen: Do the Amish read your books?

Rich: I certainly hope so! Those who have generally give me an A for accuracy and tell me that the truth sometimes hurts. In reality, my book, especially with the edgy cover photo, might not be one they would browse through if other Amish were standing nearby. However, I think that Amish parents and ministers would be well served to read my sections in the new edition on the Electronic Rumspringa, The Growing Challenge of the Internet, The Internet Cornucopia, Smartphone Challenges, Discovering the Social Media, and my Epilogue.

Galen: Since you are very knowledgeable in the subject, have you ever been contacted by an Amish teen struggling through the Rumspringa years?

Rich: I don’t remember this happening in terms of whether to leave or not. When working at Green Pasture/Philhaven, an Amish-sponsored mental health residency in Pennsylvania, I had opportunities to talk with youth who were struggling with emotional, family, and/or mental health issues.

Volleyball Game Pa

Alicia Ernst: With such a strong interest in sports have you heard of any problems with gambling addiction?

Rich: I’ve asked about this, and the answer was that they do not know of any youth involved in gambling or addiction. I’m sure it happens, but I’m guessing that it is far less common among the Amish than with their English counterparts.

Emily: I am curious to know what the effect of your students (living for a week’s time with the Lancaster and Holmes County Amish families) is on the Amish families themselves (i.e., the families with whom the students lived). 

Rich: We have done no studies on this. As you might guess, families who are willing to accept an “outsider” into their home for several days are atypical. They tend to be on the progressive end of the spectrum (although I have had a “Dan” family, “Tobe” family, and Swartzentruber family host my students or my wife and me.) These self-selected families tend to be sociable, relaxed with outsiders, and curious about the life and family of their student guests. “We have learned from them,” is an often heard comment by the Amish host parents.

Al in KY: Have retention rates gone down yet (or increased) among Old Order Amish youth who are using internet, cell phones, etc.? Have retention rates gone up any in recent years among New Order youth who seem to have more supervision during their teenage years? What do you think future trends will be?

Rich: Al, I think I dealt with this in Part 1. Somebody needs to do these studies—a very important issue.

Damon Hickey: Would someone addicted to crack cocaine think it’s all right to “cheat a little” with drugs after joining church? So why does smartphone use not carry the same stigma, and why are the Amish you mentioned so casual about “cheating” with the internet–or anything, for that matter–even after they’ve become parents? In other words, why commit yourself voluntarily to a church that expects you to give up a lot and then look for ways to “cheat”?

Rich: “Cheating,” as you put it, varies a lot from person to person, family to family, and settlement to settlement. Amish can be just as skilled as we are in rationalizing non-compliance with expected behavior. For example, “Our Ordnung does not say anything about watching DVDs while we are traveling on vacation.” Or “Even though our Ordnung permits only scooters, I only ride bicycles or tricycles in Pinecraft, Florida, when I am there. I would not want to offend anybody back home by doing so.”

Or more creatively, “The ‘abschtelling’” part of the Ordnung deals with man-made rules; The forschtelling part with which we all agree is based on the Bible, and we all follow that.” (I hope I have not reversed those two parts, but, hopefully, you get the point.) Also, there are certain lines that very few members will cross, e.g., driving automobiles or watching television. At least that is my experience. I’m glad to hear from others on this matter.

Side View Buggies Pa

Naomi Wilson: My question is: have you encountered Amish (leaders or individual families) who for a while were taking a “look the other way” or “see what happens”approach to internet and smart phones, but are now quickly backpedaling or taking an increasingly strong stance against such technologies, as the dangers become more apparent?

Rich: David McConnell, co-author of the book (among my top three), An Amish Paradox, a carefully studied and beautifully written book on the Ohio Amish, told me that this is exactly what happened in Holmes County: the Internet and smart phones flooded the community before most people understood or recognized what was happening. Now many leaders and parents are trying to get them “under control.” My feeling is that the New Order Amish have been more pro-active in this respect. The Lancaster Leit (folk), as of last fall’s bishop meetings, have also distributed an directive on the prohibition of smart phones for members. Time will tell.

Gayle Grabowski: Given the historic tradition and practice of pacifism within the Plain Communities, is there any interest among these youth to participate in military service, since other areas of the status quo are being challenged, and since their exposure to world events is obviously increasing? Or, are the teachings of pacifism so fundamental and defining for the Plain Communities, that this would be one area that would not be challenged?

Rich: Gayle, A fine question. I have not detected any weakening of the Amish commitment to non-resistance or belonging to the military. This is an abiding commitment, as far as I can tell. During times of popular wars, such as World War II, a number of youth growing up in Anabaptist homes, allowed themselves to be drafted or joined in non-combatant roles. Some actually were full-fledged soldiers, such as my Swartzentruber bishop friend who spent four years in Japan in the U.S. Air Force but later returned to the fold. Also, to the Amish’s consternation, there has been an uptick in males joining the church during war time or the reinstallation of the draft. Overall, though, the Amish do not join the military.

Tom Geist: Have you had much contact with the Swartzentruber or Swiss Amish? I wonder how they fair next to Old Order Amish with their kids and the issues that surround the running around years.

Rich: Tom, I have had excellent contact with the Swartzentruber people over the years, thanks, in part to my friendship with a Swartzentruber bishop and thanks to the help of Karen Johnson-Weiner, the absolutely ultimate authority on all things Swartzentruber. (I have volunteered to work with her if/when she writes an entire book on that group. This is my reminder to her 🙂 )

As far as the Indiana Swiss folks, this is still part of my personal Amish puzzle. Most of my knowledge comes from reading. I have never been to Adams or Allen Counties in Indiana. If any of you out there have good contacts, I would be glad to receive them.

Running Around Lancaster County

Ann K: Along the same lines as what Lee Ann asked – have you seen that the more conservative groups have a less supervised rumspringa and the more liberal groups really keep a tighter control of their youth? That seems to be the case with the groups I’ve come across here in southwestern Pa.

Rich: As you certainly know, “conservative” and “liberal” are often defined in terms of the definer 🙂 . Generally speaking, parents in the large settlements are taking a more proactive approach with their Youngie, as attested to by the Ohio Midway youth movement in the 80s and the Lancaster supervised movement from the late 90s on. Those more conservative groups in terms of the material ordnung tend to have a more hands-off approach with their youth. A number of them still have youth singings w/o any adult presence. And the New Order Amish, with adult involvement since their inception in the late 1960s are very hands-on. I’m sure that numbers of settlements are more or less in a state of flux regarding adult involvement in Rumspringa.

Loretta Shumpert: I, too, wanted to know which local stores will carry your book, as when I order a book the shipping charge can be costly.

Rich: I may have already answered this in Part 1, but just in case: Gospel Bookstore in Berlin, OH; probably the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in Lancaster, PA; which discounts the book a bit but then adds the $4 Shipping and Handling charge. Or I still have a few to sell at the regular Amazon price, plus $2 instead of $4. Hope this helps.

Loretta: Do the Amish ever use outside (English) counsellors for marriage problems, unruly kids or grief counselling? I’m sure it’s probably seldom, but is it ever done?

Rich: Traditionally, Amish in general either tried to deal with these problems through the ministry or through respected members of the congregation who were considered “Amish counselors.” That has changed drastically in recent years with psychiatric and counseling services available through places like Philhaven/Green Pasture and Red Rock Refuge in PA; Spring Haven in Holmes County, OH; and Rest Haven in Goshen, IN, among others. The People Helpers movement, mostly in PA, works as an educational force for mental, spiritual, and marital health among plain people. In the past, my older Amish friends say that most of the above problems were either ignored, with hopes that they would improve or disappear, or were “swept under the rug.” Now Amish in the more progressive settlements are very proactive in dealing with these issues and others.

Linda: Have you seen any change in the work ethic of men raised on the farm, versus the younger generation where the fathers worked in an Indiana factory, as far as endurance or being able to “see” the work that could be done?

Rich: That’s a great question, Linda, and I have no direct knowledge about the “factory Amish,” other than that to this point, there seems to be no discernible loss of factory workers to the outside world. I know that some of my Amish acquaintances do worry about that possibility. I would be happy to hear from any of you who know or who are thinking about this question.

Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years is available at Johns Hopkins University Press, Amazon, Amazon Kindle, and many other places.

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    1. Jo Ann Betts

      Do the Amish vote and how do they feel about pres. Obama? How many Amish are leaving for New York and how are they doing there? Are they accepted?

    2. Margaret

      Excellent article, providing insightful information. I learned a lot by Rich’s answers, so I know I need to read the book!

    3. Osiah Horst

      Growing up Amish

      I do look forward to reading the new version of this book. Typically, plain people do not vote but when Richard Nixon and John f. Kennedy were running against each other, many were so opposed to the idea of a Catholic president that they did vote in larger than normal numbers. I find it ironic that they chose to vote for Nixon who has been called the worst president ever in order to oppose Kennedy who many consider the best president ever. I would suppose that experience helped again in strengthening the non-voting position.

      There are many different Amish communities in New York state so there are also various experiences. For a good picture of what has been happening in New York, read Karen Johnson-Weiner’s book “New York Amish”. In talking with border crossing guards in Northern New York, it appears the Amish are well accepted in that area although many locals are still curious about the differing practices of the various Amish and Mennonite groups. While being checked out at the border, an Old Order Amish friend and I had the opportunity to explain a few basic differences to an inquisitive guard.

      1. New York Amish questions

        Just to tack on to Osiah’s comment regarding NY, here are links to a 2-part interview with Karen Johnson-Weiner on the book New York Amish:

    4. Juanita Cook

      Learning a lot by reading all the comments on here. I would love to read this book.

    5. Diane Paulson

      Smart Phones?

      I don’t understand, with the Amish commitment to staying unconnected by electricity etc., how they allow cell phones. As I understand it, cell phone activity can be traced, and this connects to the world. What do bishops say about this, or are they even aware?

    6. Another great article. Thanks Rich and Eric.

    7. Mark - Holmes Co.

      There are many Amish people who are aware and very concerned about cell-phone use. Our group allows a cell phone for business but requires the phone not be internet capable and the phone needs to stay at work or on the work vehicle in the case of carpenters and so on. In my lifetime I don’t remember any issue that caused so much discussion with our people as this one.

    8. Debbie Halcomb

      Great insightful article. I have learned more about Amish in today’s society from reading it. Look forward to reading the book.

    9. Emily

      I’ve read the first edition of Rich’s book, and I’m very interested to read the revised edition as well–technology seems to be changing so much.

      1. New edition of GUA

        I read the first edition as well–and a while back Rich let me read a draft of some excerpts from the new edition.

        In what I read he raised some really compelling questions, particularly pertaining to social media and mobile/internet technologies and their possible long-term effects on Amish individuals and the church.

        I agree with Rich above that it would be worthwhile for Amish parents to even read at least those sections. For that matter it would probably be good for English parents as well.

        I’ve got the new edition on my desk and am eager to rediscover an updated version of a book I very much enjoyed last time around.

    10. Trish in Indiana


      Thank-you so much, Rich, for taking the time to answer my questions about drug abuse in such depth. I do not have direct personal contacts within the Amish community (despite having lived in Indiana’s Amish country my whole life), but certainly I have heard the rumors about meth, and in past years there have been some major “busts” among young people from Amish families. However, there has for some time been a serious meth problem in our area among non-Amish (this year, for example, a gas station owner in Goshen was busted for allegedly dealing meth out of their convenience store), so it would not be surprising for it to affect the Amish as well. The rumspringa years can be a time of more contact with the “world,” and the world can be a scary place sometimes.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful and detailed responses to the various parts of my question.

    11. Jean Junkin

      Amish Youth

      Rick, I believe the Amish have some of the same problems with their youth that we have. They just don’t talk about it, or keep it in the family. Plastering it all over Facebook is not what a parent or youth should do. I also would love to read your books.

    12. Patsy Houston

      I love reading anything Amish!

    13. Joseph Toth

      I have such a respect and love for the Amish. Great group of people!

    14. Susan

      Online Amish class

      I have so enjoyed reading your interview and responses to the questions. I enjoy going to Amish country in TN on a fairly regular basis. It is so nice to see such a simple and unhurried pace that does not exist even in the small towns in English country! My question is are you aware of any online Amish study classes? I do not live close enough to attend a college which offers any classes on the Amish, but would so like to learn more.

      Thank you for all of the good information!

      1. Richard Stevick

        Not aware of any Amish culture on-line courses

        . . . and despite my recent research focus on Amish youth and the Internet, the computer is not my strong suit. If I were less technologically challenged, I might have actually considered teaching such a class. But I suspect that I will spend the productive years I have left in teaching and learning in traditional ways. Besides, an on-line course on Amish life seems to be anything but plain and simple. Machs goot, Susan.

    15. Naomi Wilson

      Thank you, Rich, for answering so many questions. I know it’s not the only focus of your book, but I really appreciate the discussion about cell phone and internet usage, including the input from Holmes County Mark and Belle Center Mark. I would be delighted to win a copy of your book.

    16. Loretta Shumpert


      I appreciate your in-depth answer to my question about counselors.

      Many people ask about the cell phones, I was reading in either a book or an article about a bishop was questioning a couple young boys about whether they had a cell phone. They denied it. As they stood there talking one of the boy’s cell phone rang. 🙂

      1. Richard Stevick

        Maybe an Amish cell phone legend--maybe not

        I’ve heard several versions of the cell phone ringing story. I suspect that some, at least, have really happened, although I have not met anybody who claims to have first-hand experience. A couple times in Amish church, I realized that I had my phone with me and had not turned it off. Fortunately, I get few calls on a Sunday morning, so I escaped 🙂 Rich

    17. Carol

      addictive behavior

      Addictive behavior is addictive behavior. While some of the youth may be able to give up their cell phones once they join the church, I think it is likely that some other addictive behavior may replace it. With the drug use, that’s creating a dependency that would require some professional help to overcome (if at all). Just my opinion. The social media tools and rampant drug availability are pushing all these sheltered kids way beyond the forbidden transistor radio of 40 or so years ago.

      1. Important distinctions...

        Carol, I totally agree with you about addictive behavior (in general) — what is suppressed (without properly dealing with it) in one area is all-too-often found to sprout its head somewhere else. But we must remember when considering this type of thing that there is a significant difference between something that is is genuinely addictive in nature and something that is only a habit. For example, porn (due to the very design/nature of human sexual drive) is often very addictive as it ties into the desire cycle — or worse, into one’s deep-seated and often misguided needs (felt or real). But the use of cellphone (non-smart, not-internet-capable), well, I could be proven wrong but I dare to think that that is more in the category of something that is habit more than addiction. As such, I wouldn’t expect the emerging of an alternate form of that habit to necessarily be the norm.


      Thank you Rich. I have learned much from reading your responses to these questions and am really looking forward to reading your book.

    19. Ann K.

      Hi Rich,
      There was a Swartzentruber Amish settlement north of me in Ebensburg, Pa that failed last year. I had thought that they were working out the problems they had with the local goverment but they moved (to N.Y. I think) anyway. Now I’m wondering if the ramping up of the local drug problem contributed to them going. Have you heard anything about this?

      1. Richard Stevick

        Swartzentruber drug problems?

        Ann, I don’t know the Swartzentruber Amish nearly as well as I do Amish life in the big three settlements. However, I do have some good relationships with Swartz individuals, and I am not aware of any serious problems being reported on youthful drug use. One reason is that most of their youth have traditionally been seriously sheltered by parents and community from mainstream society and even from other Amish. Second, they are more likely to live in less populated areas, among each other, and on the farm. These help to isolate them. A factor which I personally attribute to their lack of drug experience is the Swartzentrubers relatively low incomes. Drugs follow the money, and for reasons beyond the scope of this answer, Swartzentrubers tend to be much poorer than mainstream Amish. Hope this helps. Rich P.S. Karen Johnson-Weiner from Potsdam University in New York State is the person to ask.

    20. Marilyn

      I appreciated reading these questions and answers here, giving a better knowledge of life among the Amish. Thanks so much!

    21. Dawn L. Martinez

      I have been reading Amish books since Beverly Lewis started writing them. I would love to read your books…hoping I can win one. They sound very interesting!

    22. Garrett Kozlowski

      I have a great respect for the Amish, I love to read anything on them.

    23. Pilgrim


      You mentioned hundreds of Amish are leaving Lancaster County for other, cheaper areas. My question is, if you have tracked it, how successful are the “transplanted” Amish families at becoming financially solvent in their new community? Are they just being pushed further and further away from their communities because they can’t afford the land?

      ps I would like to be entered in the contest to win a copy of your book(s). I am an avid Amish fan usually just reading Amish fiction.

      1. Richard Stevick

        Economic success of families who move away

        My sense is that if couples or families move to an established settlement, they do fine financially. On the other hand, if the new settlement leaders have failed to check out the many variables that lead to success, e.g., slatey soil, lack of reliable water, an unwelcoming surrounding population (very rare), or the diversity of settlements contributing families to the new settlement, all of the migrants may do poorly, and the settlement may not succeed. Normally, however, the Amish come with a sterling work ethic, a sense of their competency and agency, and families large enough to provide needed hands and labor. Hope this helps.

    24. This was a very interesting read. I’ll have to go bakc and read part 1. But not tonight. Its too late. 🙂

    25. Tom Geist

      Hi Rich,

      Swiss Amish…. I too want to know more about them. I live in Nebraska, and down in Seymour Missouri there is a group. In fact, Seymour was getting too small so a group moved to Parsons Kansas. 69 families there. Two families last name are Schrock, all of the rest are Schwartz! I only had a chance to meet 3 of the families in Parsons, all nice people. I need to go back someday soon. I almost never stopped at this settlement because they didn’t list themselves in the Amish directory that others do. (they do have their own little directory that you can buy once in town)

    26. Tom Geist

      Hard Core Subject--Amish Suicide

      Hey Rich,

      It’s hard to research many details about Amish as is, but I wonder about Amish suicides. What are the reasons why one might commit suicide in a community were one assumes is so peaceful and content, and how the family/Amish community handle this.

      Thanks for any light you can bring to this.

      Tom in Lincoln

    27. Tom Geist


      (sorry for 3 posts in a row…but these are separate issues)

      Hi Rich,

      I know that most Amish shy away from cameras. Today with cameras in most stores, on street corners and just everywhere, how do the Amish that hide from having their pictures taken deal with it?

      On another note, I was surprised to find that some Amish are OK with having pictures.

      Tom in Lincoln

    28. Donna Clendaniel


      We moved to “Lanchester” County 9 months ago and have noticed a big difference in Amish personalities. While many Amish are friendly, they usually don’t speak to you unless you speak to them first. They also avoid eye contact. I shop at Dutchway Farm Market in Gap and so do quite a few Amish. When I go down the same aisles they seem to not even see that you are there. Do Amish look down on us “Englishers” because we are outsiders and I guess bigger(?) sinners? The Amish children seem much more friendly, they always are smiling and wave hello. They are just adorable in their Amish clothing.

      1. Richard Stevick

        Amish reactions to us "outsiders"

        Our experiences in moving into Lancaster County 45 years ago was much like yours–feeling distanced or ignored. Now I think close to 12 million tourists come to Lancaster County each year, many of whom are drawn by the Amish. You can see how such overwhelming numbers could easily pose a problem for Amish who are task-oriented, whether at work or shopping. The best way to meet Amish is on their own turf: stop at an Amish bake shop or roadside stand. Buy eggs or root beer (Sometimes in the early years, I would come home with a dozen eggs from each of four farms.) If one is pleasant and not pushy and returns to patronize the business, the Amish workers will likely warm up. Markets, such as Reading Terminal in Philadelphia or Central Market in Lancaster are good places to meet Amish if you come at a time that is not too busy, e.g., after their stand is set up and ready to go but before the 9:30 crowds begin descending. Shrewsbury Market on Rt 83 just north of the PA/MD line is generally a congenial place to chat with Amish standholders. Some places are known for their friendliness, such as Sam and Susie Riehl’s Quilts on Eby Road in Lancaster County. The same principle should apply in other locations. Again, if a person is patient, genuinely friendly, and not too “bold,” as the Amish call it, I believe that he or she can discover amiable people and conversations. I hope this helps. Rich

    29. Carolsue

      I have always been interested in the Amish. We visited Lancaster County and surrounding areas and I found is fascinating and read most everything about them that I can lay my hands on.

    30. Rachel

      I noticed some people are questioning why cell phones would even be desired when there is so much about it that connects you to the outside world. I think it’s a complicated question but directly ties to the shunning aspect. There are many Amish who do not feel as strongly about the technology and separation from the world issue as the standard party line would indicate. In fact they may not feel strongly about many of the Amish ‘rules.’ But because leaving is so difficult and requires so much sacrifice in many areas, family, occupation, friends, etc. it is much easier to just ignore the rules you don’t like and stay Amish.
      The problem with this is that the church retains members which may look good on the books but in reality it dilutes the ‘purity’ of the church because many actually don’t agree with the application of central tenets of the faith. The smart phone happens to be both very useful in many ways and also super easy to keep hidden. It’s not like having a TV or a computer or a car. Also, since it doesn’t need to be hooked up to cable or a phone line it comes in handy for those who like to have internet access. In fact the smart phone seems nearly tailor made for the Amish. It doesn’t require electricity (except for charging), it helps with keeping in touch when the phone is supposed to be kept in a shanty, it allows internet access in a very discreet manner.

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        I think I’d disagree with you, Rachel. I’m Old Order Amish and I do have strong views on the smart-phone. I belong to the main Amish group and I and my family could leave our church for a Mennonite church or similar without being shunned. In fact we do have family members & friends who have taken that step. In the simple act of giving up Old Order Amish membership for such a membership, I would have free will to get a car, computer (at home — use one at work daily), smart or cell phone, electricity, TV (in many Mennonite churches), and basically whatever else goes with the non-Amish life. Not only do we have friends & family who did this, about half of my non-Amish coworkers have done this. We work together & hang out together and see each other as friends, relatives, or coworkers… so that is why I disagree. I have chosen this way of life and strongly believe in that.
        It might be groups like Swartzentrubers & Dan Amish have it different, but for us, in the biggest Amish community, it’s not that way.
        I’m not trying to argue or anything, just saying what it’s like for many of us.

        1. The Bann in Holmes County

          Mark this is very interesting. I am just curious–in your main Old Order Holmes County group, is there any period of the Bann at all, or is it lifted after a certain period of time and/or joining a Mennonite or similar church?

          And do you know is there any scope for the Bann being eased in the Dan church? I understand that they fellowship with Lancaster at least in part because of stricter approach to shunning. However I have heard that at least in more progressive parts of Lancaster the practice of shunning is not as severe as in others.

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            Erik, I’m not aware of any change in Dan Gmay attitude toward shunning. In fact it seems to me it might be even a bit stricter than it was maybe 20 years ago, and I’m saying that based on two certain cases here in our neighborhood.
            A couple might be placed in Bann for leaving the Old Order but that is lifted as soon as they become members in another church. In fiction the Bann is slapped on someone right away but in real life it might be months or a year after leaving. Since the people who left could be members elsewhere, I know of times it never was used at all or put on then lifted soon after.

            1. That is interesting, thank you Mark. I don’t get out to Holmes County as often as I’d like, so it’s nice to hear a voice from the area here.

              I think many people don’t realize there are different approaches to shunning.

            2. Rachel

              Mark, I think it’s great that things are that casual in Holmes when it comes to shunning. I grew up Amish in Lancaster and I can assure you that what I wrote is completely correct in respect to Lancaster.

              1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                It’s interesting, Rachel, to know you grew up Amish. We have friends in Lancaster and have visited there and we see a huge difference, and not just in Ordnung. It’s like they are much more intense or something and they don’t seem to take the time for relaxing or however you’d say. They have a whole different outlook on church life and those that choose not to stay Amish.
                In the last few years there have been a few families from PA who moved here to Holmes Co. and it has been really interesting to see how they fit in and what they see as the biggest differences. It sounds like the biggest difference (outside of Ordnung) is in PA there is a strong push to conform and be always concerned with how other people see you. I guess in Holmes Co. we are more laid back or something. 🙂 Though Lanc. people would probably say we are “lass.” (Don’t know what that would be in English. Sorry.)

        2. Hi, Mark!
          Interesting to see you on here. 🙂
          I tend to agree with you, but understand the angle of people following ordnung, but not really having their heart in it (which may be what Rachel is referring to). But the other aspect is that Anabaptist people are taught from little up to be honest. So someone who may actually desire a smart phone will probably not have one hidden, because that would be living a lie.
          So most Plain People will abide by the “rules,” with not a lot of “sneaking around,” but that doesnt mean their heart is in what they are doing.
          Anyways, I am commenting mostly to get my name in the pot for the free book. LOL

    31. Gayle Grabowski

      Thank you, Rich for answering our questions and Erik for providing such a wonderful forum! The feedback from those of the Amish community has been especially informative, and I appreciate the honesty. I cannot wait to read this book, as I am sure I will find useful information I can apply as I face similar challenges in raising my sons.

    32. Carol

      Cell phone charging

      Where do Amish go to charge their cell phones? Seems like it would be difficult to make all the trips necessary to keep them charged. But maybe they ration their usage and don’t find it essential to recharge them on a daily basis.

    33. Linda

      Congratulations, Rich, on the completion of your book project! And thank you for your time in answering questions, for writing in everyday language we can understand, and sharing your personal experiences. Please enter my name for an opportunity to win a copy of Growing Up Amish! The less people that enter, the better the chances!

    34. Sharon Lewis

      Sounds like a good book!

      I would love to have this book! It sounds very interesting. Thanks for having the contest!

    35. Great Interview

      Great interview with informative questions and answers!

    36. Beverly

      Entering the Amish Lifestyle

      How hard or easy would it be to actually live amongst the Amish and learn and live their way of life. It seems like such a peaceful, less stressful way of life. Also not growing up Amish I would imagine it would be quite difficult to learn how to work as hard as they do at such a late time in life.

    37. sarah Lynch

      Thank you for this interview & all the intersting information you’ve provided. I wonder if the small percentage of alcohol & drug addictions has to do with genetics considering their narrow gene pool going back tpo before they emmigrated? Just a rhetorical thought.

    38. Susan Schafer


      Where are the winners announced? Thank you!

      1. Tom Geist

        Hi Susan S,

        Winners were announced in a different section.

        “Growing Up Amish Winners

        Using, I’ve drawn three random winners from your entries:

        #56, Sarah Lynch

        #119, Margaret (comment #2 on this post)

        #12, Tom Geist”

        I didn’t think the one winner was very deserving…but they gave HIM a copy anyway. =)

        Tom Geist

    39. Barbara

      I love this!


      I consider myself more than fortunate that I discovered your site. I am studying Amish culture and your site has offered a wealth of information in addition to a source of inspiration. Your book reviews have guided me to building a library full of valuable reads!

      Thanks so much to you, and all the authors you introduce!