On one hand, Amish teens live a simple, plain life. They get up, help their mamms and daeds -- moms and dads -- with chores, go to Sunday services and get to know each other. On the other hand, they are given a period of time to try on new experiences and decide whether they want to be baptized into the Amish faith.
Church is held, not in an established building, but in various district members’ homes. Men and women sit in separate rooms, according to the Amish Country News website. Teens of the district grow up knowing they will attend Sunday services every two weeks, with each service lasting three hours, according to the Religion Transcends website. When the service is over, families participate in the lunch fellowship. Teens of courting age -- usually 16 years of age and older -- can attend a youth sing with some adult supervision. The youth separate by sex, sitting on opposite sides of a long picnic table, facing each other. This allows them to socialize between songs. The sing generally ends at 10 p.m., with the teens continuing to visit with each other, getting to know potential courting partners.
Amish teens wear dark-colored clothing, with the boys wearing blue, green or dark-red long-sleeved shirts and dark pants. In summer, they wear straw hats; in the winter, they wear black wool hats. Their shoes are dark. Rather than using belts, which are considered to be “worldly,” Amish males, teens included, wear suspenders to hold their pants up.
Amish teenage girls wear dark dresses with high necks and sleeves that go down to the elbows or wrists. The dresses are usually calf-length. The girls will wear dark stockings like their mothers. Unmarried teen girls wear white prayer kapps -- caps -- and black aprons. The Amish choose to wear plain clothing because they want to keep their focus on God rather than themselves.
School and Work
Amish teens finish school at the age of 14. A 1972 Supreme Court ruling said that the Amish cannot be forced to continue compulsory high school attendance. Instead, the families of these teens continue a “school without walls” plan that allows the teens to continue learning vocational skills that they will use upon reaching adulthood. These skills include farming, carpentry, baking, housework and quilting. By the time they marry and move into their own homes, these teens will have all the skills they need to run a home and a small business, according to the Amish Country News website.
Rumspringa is German for “running-around time.” At 16 years of age, Amish teens have the opportunity to begin exploring life outside their districts. The parents of an Amish teen on his rumspringa will allow him to experience everything that is forbidden within the district. Some teens go to the movies or a concert -- forbidden under the Ordnung, or rules of the district. Other teens try drinking alcohol or smoking.
When teens on their rumspringa go to spend time with their friends, their parents will simply admonish them to be careful. They won’t set a curfew by which their child is supposed to be home. It’s simply understood that the teen will return home, according to the NPR Books website.
Trying New Experiences
The Amish teen’s running around time is intended to help her decide whether she wants to continue living within the Amish faith and rules, or if she wants to leave her district and live as an Englischer, as the Amish call it. Before she turned 16, she was closely supervised by her parents and older siblings. During her rumspringa, her parents will deliberately allow her to experiment with behaviors and activities so that, should she decide to return, it’s with the knowledge that she will give up everything she tried during her running around time, according to the NPR website.
Because teens leave school at 14, they won’t have the same experiences as non-Amish counterparts. This is considered a critical period of self-discovery, even among the Amish; district leaders and the parents of the teens want them to know themselves fully when they decide whether to join the church, according to the Welcome to Lancaster County website.