Six Reasons Why People Fail To Join The Amish

After 15+ years of writing a blog on the Amish, from time to time I still hear from people who wish to become Amish.

I usually advise people to take a look at what is attracting them to want to join the Amish. Often, I suspect, the real reasons have little to do with the Amish at all (more on that below).

Image: Don Burke

Often it seems that those interested in joining the Amish are simply expressing a passing interest.

That said, I think it’s good to consider the roadblocks to actually becoming Amish. For those who like to watch video, you’ll find the video version of this post at bottom.

Six Obstacles to Becoming Amish

Here are six obstacles to becoming a member of an Amish church. These concern both the actual joining, and the remaining Amish parts:

1. The Amish don’t recruit – they won’t necessarily turn you away, but not all (most) Amish are not going to be especially encouraging of you to join their church.

There are several reasons for that, some of them more obvious than others. But the Amish for the most part have never had much desire to seek converts. A lot of this is simply practical – they have little need to boost their church numbers, having large families and with 80% or more joining the church. And on the other side of that coin we come to point 2…

Image: Jim Halverson

2. Cultural & technological differences – Adopting an Amish lifestyle, it goes without saying, presents challenges for anyone living in modern times. Internet, cars, and public electricity are the big pain points here.

3. “Mentality gap” – I suspect this less-obvious reason might be just as important as #2 here, perhaps more. The Amish are community-minded. This can stand in stark contrast to the individualism of American culture.

This doesn’t mean that Amish aren’t individuals too, but there is an emphasis on the good of others and on considering the impact of one’s actions on the community. That can be a hard mentality for some to adopt.

Image: Jim Halverson

4. Seeing the Amish as a “quick fix” – File this obstacle under “seeking the Amish for the wrong reasons”. Some people who are struggling in their personal lives – with relationships, family, other challenges – can come to see the Amish as a “quick fix” for their issues. But the Amish are not a utopia, and though they willingly help others, they don’t exist to solve people’s problems.

5. Seeking the Amish for love or lifestyle reasons (not faith) – Wanting to join the Amish because you’ve found yourself in a relationship with an Amish person is not necessarily the best reason to take such a big step. Romantic feelings wear off over time. Nor is a desire to “live the simple life”.

Conviction in the Christian foundation is a much better (more enduring) reason. The above said, coming to the Amish through the vehicle of a relationship with an Amish person can work out. There are examples of people who’ve done this (Marlene C. Miller for instance).

6. Idealization – The final obstacle is one which can lead to problems for people after joining the church. Looking at the Amish from the outside, people form impressions of the Amish as being “above” the issues others deal with every day. Surely the Amish don’t have the same types of problems we outsiders do?

But human nature does not cease to operate on donning suspenders or a prayer covering. Idealizing the Amish in this way only leads to disappointment and disenchantment.

There are likely other obstacles not mentioned here. And as suggested above, seeking the Amish out of spiritual conviction probably gives a person the best chance to become and remain Amish. That’s not the only way people come to the Amish, however.

Why do I write about joining the Amish so much?

I found myself asking this question lately. I do write a good bit about this topic, even though it is admittedly a niche subject within “Amish studies”.

Is it because I secretly wish I could become Amish? No, I don’t think it’s that 😀

I think one reason for it is that it is a great topic for better understanding of who the Amish are, and why they do what they do. Seeing them through the lens of “becoming Amish as an outsider” brings the differences between “us” and “them” into sharper focus.

I also have come across enough people on both sides of this – those that have become Amish and those seeking the Amish – that I have enough examples to draw upon.

I think there are good lessons to be drawn from this subject as well – asking ourselves what it is that we find attractive about Amish life – and whether we can mindfully incorporate more of those things into our present lives.

Here’s the new video where I go through the above six reasons. This video was condensed down from the longer video “So you want to join the Amish” which I did in late 2021, with some added footage. Runtime: 6:03.

Hat tip to Jim Potter for his recent suggestion to write about reasons why people join the Amish. This post isn’t quite that, but I’d say the last three reasons here could be considered common reasons people are attracted to join.

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    22 Comments

    1. Central Virginian

      Good Point

      “…..what it is that we find attractive about Amish life – and whether we can mindfully incorporate more of those things into our present lives.“

      This is such an important point. There is nothing to stop one from spending more time with family, attending church, serving others, spending less time on the Internet, and living a simpler life. These and any other aspects of Amish culture that one finds desirable can be practiced anywhere and anytime.

      1. Very true. Your comment made me think a bit more about this. And I think it might be that some people want to do these things but find themselves in environments that are not so conducive to them. For example if they’re surrounded by negative people and bad influences.

        Thus I can kind of understand the appeal of putting oneself into an environment where most everyone is aligned towards doing these (for simplicity let’s call them more “Amish-like”) things.

        That doesn’t take away from your point though. It just gave me a little more food for thought when you ask the question “why” people might not leap to make such changes and instead come to think they’d like to become Amish to achieve them.

        1. Bert

          hi my moms family lives in a small town in ct and most of the young people are involved with the church there its a small community there and also a lot of cousins and that

    2. Joe

      Some more obstacles

      One is related to your obstacle 5. Many people see the Amish and see only the simple lifestyle, not the real commitment to their faith, which leads to that lifestyle. The Amish faith is a rather conservative form of Christianity. While some non-Amish may have been raised in a fairly conservative church, others will not have, and may find it hard to adopt the Amish kind of faith. Also, many conservative non-Amish Christians have grown up having or wanting a personal relationship with Christ, and that isn’t all that much a part of most Old-Order Amish traditions.

      Another obstacle is one that Marlene Miller mentions in her book, and that is the use of Pennsylvania Dutch. She admits that even after all her years of living as Amish, it is still tough to use the language. Many American adults would have difficulty with being bilingual (or actually trilingual when you count the use of standard German in parts of the church service and in reading the bible).

      1. Nice addition to the list Joe. There could probably be a dozen of these or more. An in-the-know commenter in the YouTube comments for this vid also mentioned learning PA Dutch as an obstacle, as well as work ethic and the idea that some seekers are on a what you might call a “contrarian personal journey”. When they join the Amish it’s hard to continue that stance. I found that interesting. Commenter’s handle is Tobitobiify.

    3. Rebecca Rury

      Well said

      Well said, Erik. Thanks for another thoughtful post!

    4. Ronald Storer

      Why I joined the Amish

      Good afternoon, I’m intrigued by your understanding of the Amish. I joined the Amish back in January 2005. I was looking for a church that meant business for God or I was going out into the world altogether. I was a member of a protestant church that did not seem to have standards…and if so they were pretty loose. I was seeking a serious-minded church group. After going through all the ones I had been to, Baptist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, and Catholic, I found that the Amish are serious about their beliefs. They memorize scriptures. They know where topics are found. They are in church unless really really sick or traveling…and then they attend even if the group is a little more progressive than they are.
      I lived in three communities and belonged to two churches. I’ve since left the communities after 15 years with them. I found them works-based salvation so I’d not call them Christian. Read the scriptures and all through them, God has emphasized that one cannot expect to get to heaven on my abilities. The way to heaven is through the shed blood of Jesus.
      I enjoy the plain and simple life, the expectations, the simple business strategies, but the one thing that sent me packing was hearing from the pulpit “just change the outside and the inside will follow”…” just follow the rules and you’ll be converted” and finally a minister added to the final verse he was reading that ended in Jesus Christ. “and the brethren”… They do not like the term “born again”. The English use that, so it’s evil. One can be converted to anything… Mohamidism, satanism, Mormonism, you get the point, but there is only one faith that requires me to be BORN AGAIN. Jesus said, “ye must be born again”.
      I miss the lifestyle, I miss my friends, I miss the business that I was starting to see grow and grow. But I had a choice to make. I had to decide either to follow the Lord Jesus Christ or follow a pharisee-laden cult that the world sees as so godly. I think the standards are good, but should not be used as pressure to rule over people by insisting that those practices will please God enough to get one into heaven. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Thank you
      I’m so happy that He forgives and forgets and puts my sins as far as the east is from the west! As if I have not ever committed them… and because of the blood of Jesus, I haven’t. It’s only the legalistic cults that want to waive my old past in my face and say how bad I have been and restrict my life because of my past. As if I’m still a criminal. When Jesus forgives… It’s all the way! God knew before the foundation of the world what path I’d take and He still sent Jesus to be beaten, bleed, and die for me. He’s an awesome elder brother! I love Jesus and I miss the Amish life style. Rms

      1. James

        Lutheran Soteriology

        I don’t know anything of your journey beyond what you’ve written here. So I’m not aware of the precise context. But if you had an Evangelical Protestant upbringing, you were probably brought into the conception of salvation based on Martin Luther’s psychology. Luther lived with a great deal of guilt and projected much of that guilt onto himself. As a result, he framed Salvation much in terms of “freedom,” hence one of his books being titled “The Freedom of the Christian.” That is in significant contrast to the soteriology of Calvin, Bucer, Zwingli, Grebel, Simons, and others. They framed faith more in terms of covenant faithfulness rather than trying to free oneself from self imposed guilt. The Amish are fundamentally Calvinistic, whereas many Evangelicals tend to be Lutheran (at least soteriologically).

      2. dan

        As a Amish man myself I must say I am sorry to hear of your view, I have never in my life heard it preached that we are saved thru’ works, however to your point, as in any culture it brings challenges, there are too many of our people who are more concerned about being ” Amish ” rather then being Christian is it part of our doctrine no, but there is to much ignorance on that issue though , and it is an issue , Be Blessed

      3. Lizzieann Troyer

        Same reason I left the Amish

        I am glad you saw through the strict outward rules. What you saw of the Amish such as that they don’t like the term “born again”; that’s the same reason I left the Amish. I am shunned because I confess I am born again. I was born Amish as were my children, who left along with me when they were young, and are doing well in churches that teach the Gospel. A lot of my in-laws left together with us, which was a big help to me as a young widow. Sure, I miss being accepted by my Amish family, lots of relatives, and friends. But Jesus means more to me than all of them and their lifestyle too.

    5. Six reasons why people fail to join amish

      I certainly enjoyed this. As for me I admire alot of Amish ways of community with friends and family and drawn to horse and buggy and beauitful countryside farmlands in which they live. I know I could never become Amish I couldn’t see myself without use of little makeup and I may become bored with same clothes and I do disagree with the shunning.
      It creates alot of pain and suffering and I know our Lord would not like us to live with that and to follow the ordung written and Un written rules created by a bishop doesn’t seem what God intended for us and if you have a bishop who isn’t as nice as some others it could be not worth it to follow his judgment. But I would love to live amoung the Amish and even try to live their way see what they really experience. But perhaps as i read alot of romance Amish books it seems if one falls in love it wouldn’t matter how you live just to be with that person.

    6. Paula

      Joking the Amish

      2&5 were my obstacles, even though yes…I was asked. I was told that I “have an Amish heart”. What a beautiful & treasred comment!!! But I knew I was too “of this world” by then. I was 35 & had a very rewarding career that required me to be “fancy” to the world, even though I never lived or wanted that lifestyle…which ultimately ended my career as I no longer wanted to “play the game”. Yet, I was still spoiled by the world, no matter how eschewed “Fanciness” & pride.
      I grew up Catholic & later become Southern Baptist & a Sunday School teacher. But incidences with “religion” made me jaded. And so I decided to just rely on my personal relationship with God.
      But when I met & spent much time with an Amish family, it was very tempting. An escape, or love? Respect…definitely. Romance…yes. Even jealously that they soooooo “had the right idea”.
      My sister & I always wondered why we had this fascination of the Amish when we were growing up. It was never mentioned in our family that we were Anabaptists descendants. Until, one day, at 60 yo, my curiosity (once I was retired & disabled) led me to a first hand account of my family from the 1700’s. There I discovered books on MY FAMILY…not DNA mind you…but first hand accounts of my family escaping Austria/Germany due to the persecution of their Mennonite religion!!! My stomach & heart jumped & I immediately called my sister, now 67, with this INCREDIBLE revelation!!! It was all I could do to not read the entire script to her, some 300 pages of it, just on the phone. I immediately ordered a copy for her & kept reading fervently reading about generation after generation of my antesendants being Mennonite ministers & founders of towns that I grew up around!!! The account ended with the birth of my grandfather.
      I hold onto a very modest lifestyle of which I am comfortable, but quite “under” the social “norms” & expectations, especially with my high profile career, which, I always considered love & help based though it has a glamorous stigma.
      I’ve told this in bits & pieces, but I hope to one day tell the story in book form…cause ya can’t make this stuff up.

      1. Lizzieann Troyer

        You have a precious Heritage!

        What a precious Heritage! I also have from the late 16 and 1700’s of my ancestry as Anababptist, Mennonites. I don’t have much specific and individual information on them but I value what I have. That is something I want to ask them about when we meet in heaven!

    7. Paula

      Joining the Amish

      2&5 were my obstacles, even though yes…I was asked. I was told that I “have an Amish heart”. What a beautiful & treasured comment!!! But I knew I was too “of this world” by then. I was 35 & had a very rewarding career that required me to be “fancy” to the world, even though I never lived or wanted that lifestyle…which ultimately ended my career as I no longer wanted to “play the game”. Yet, I was still spoiled by the world, no matter how I eschewed “Fanciness” & pride.
      I grew up Catholic & later become Southern Baptist & a Sunday School teacher. But incidences with “religion” made me jaded. And so I decided to just rely on my personal relationship with God.
      But when I met & spent much time with an Amish family, it was very tempting. An escape, or love? Respect…definitely. Romance…yes. Even jealously that they soooooo “had the right idea”.
      My sister & I always wondered why we had this fascination of the Amish when we were growing up. It was never mentioned in our family that we were Anabaptist descendants. Until, one day, at 60 yo, my curiosity (once I was retired & disabled) led me to a first hand account of my family from the 1700’s. There I discovered books on MY FAMILY…not DNA mind you…but first hand accounts of my family escaping Austria/Germany due to the persecution of their Mennonite religion!!! My stomach & heart jumped & I immediately called my sister, now 67, with this INCREDIBLE revelation!!! It was all I could do to not read the entire script to her, some 300 pages of it, just on the phone. I immediately ordered a copy for her & kept reading fervently reading about generation after generation of my family being Mennonite ministers & founders of towns that I grew up around!!! The account ended with the birth of my grandfather.
      I hold onto a very modest lifestyle of which I am comfortable, but quite “under” the social “norms” & expectations, especially with my high profile career, which, I always considered love & help based though it has a glamorous stigma.
      I’ve told this in bits & pieces, but I hope to one day tell the story in book form…cause ya can’t make this stuff up.

    8. Kensi Blonde

      No thanks

      I think many of us would love to slow down and unplug. And aesthetically the lifestyle can be very pleasing, with the simple clothes, horse and buggies, gorgeous farmland. And then the idealisation of a strong community when most of us in the “real world” are at critical levels of disengagement with our communities. But the reality of the Amish life especially for a woman would never gel with me. Having babies until I drop? No thanks. Taking a backseat to whatever a man tells me, including having to put up with physical or mental abuse? Nope. Never. I also love animals and the Amish don’t treat their animals well, I’ve seen it up close. Nope, nope, nope.

      1. Jan Storey

        I agree

        My job takes me into many Amish homes. I’ve always wondered why the wife almost always looks older than the husband. As I consider that, it does make sense and is not my imagination. Having 10 babies in 12 years would make anyone look old! I also agree with your statement about how they treat animals. Many of them have illegal puppy mills. Short of that, most have dogs or cats. These “pets” seem to be treated more like livestock, not allowed inside even in severely cold temperatures, lack of vet care, and sometimes lack of food or water. Unfortunately, I’ve seen families who were very warm and welcoming towards me, but had dogs covered with fleas, mange, sores, and mud. In one case, I should have called authorities re a dog in a very bad condition. I did not (most likely would have lost my job) and have felt guilt about it ever since. It breaks my heart when the horses are forced to pull a heavy buggy several miles into town on a hot, humid day then see them tethered to a post for hours without water. For the most part, I like and respect the Amish except for their behavior toward animals.

    9. Teresa

      Pergunta: Como conservam a comida sem frigorífico?

      1. Victor

        Como conservaram a comida sem frigorifico por miles de anos.
        Antes da invencao da electricidade, hovem um numero de modos
        em que conservaram comida (e outras coisas) em comunidades
        humanas em lugares diferentes na planeta . . .

    10. Leslie Harris

      Six Reasons Why People Fail To Join The Amish

      Hi Eric,

      Interesting and informative article (and video)!

      I’d be interested in what you and other posters think about the Beachy Amish-Mennonites (considered by some Anabaptist religion researchers as the “New New Order” Amish), given their stance on driving, technology, and seekers:
      http://www.beachyam.org/FAQs.htm

      It’s unfortunate that many “English” (and possible other Amish groups as well) don’t consider the Beachy Amish to be as ” really amish” as other more conservative groups.

    11. Pamela Hietanen

      Additional Amish in MI

      Hello Eric,

      I live near an Amish community in Michigan, and know of another which I also do not see listed.
      The one close to me is in Newaygo County, just outside of the town of Fremont. I have horses myself and have visited Troyer’s store to have tack mended. We see them always driving their horses and buggies.

      I recently became aware of another community near Kaleva, Michigan in Manistee County. Kaleva was was founded by Finnish settlers who also like to mind their own business, so I think it is a happy combination.

    12. Narayan Dhakal

      This is interesting to know little bit about the Amish community in the USA. I applaud their passion maintaining minimal consumption and doing good to others. Amid climate change their lifestyle is most promising to streamline environmental harmony.

      I am from a very small country Nepal, we have same cultural background as Amish in terms of saving environment and respecting nature’s, contribution to the Earth. I am wondering which community in the USA are closely align with this community. How do they align with the Native Americans? Curious to know.