when Amish young people leave, what do they do, careerwise?

do many of them stay as farmers, just maybe using more modern methods? Do they tend to abandon farming work and become skilled workers? Are those who have worked as skilled workers before leaving more likely to leave the community than the farmers?

Is there any other economic undercurrent behind leaving? Is it the rich or the poor who are leaving? Or some sort of not self-actualized striving middle class? What is known about the motivations of leaving? What is known about professional lives and cultural attitudes of people who left?

More Amish work in factories, manufacture, and sales than you might think. They are by no means only farmers.

I haven’t found an answer to your specific question, but this site might help you out:


There was a documentary on the Amish. They profiled several Amish teenagers during the time they experienced life outside the community. The girls wore makeup, listened to radio/tv, and guys drove cars. They also experimented with alcohol and drugs. At a certain point they have to decide whether to rejoin the Amish or live in the regular world. The ones that choose the outside world are shunned. They aren’t welcome in the community at all. They actually mourn the ones that leave like they died. It’s pretty grim.

Does anyone live like the Amish anywhere else in the world? It seems like it’s peculiarly American to me, and I wonder why that would be.

My grandmother and her 7 siblings are ex-Amish. They all became Mennonite, I believe. At least she did. I’m not talking bonnet-wearing Mennonite, I’m talking normal everyday car-driving Mennonite.

She went to college at Hesston in Kansas (a Mennonite university) in the 50’s. She worked with the Mennonite Church for a long time doing secretarial work, then became the secretary for her home church until she retired recently. She still lives in the farm house her dad built. There’s a large garden on the property, and a barn she rents to a cousin, and a huge field she rents to another cousin. I don’t think those cousins are Amish anymore either.

One brother is a banker, the other is a nurse. I am not sure what the other children grew up to be.

The recently ex-Amish family that used to live next door to my grandparents have 10 kids. I know the oldest daughter was about to leave the church but returned when she got married. Her husband was afraid he’d get drafted (seriously). I do believe the dad works in a wood shop, and the oldest son is training for something in the medical field.

Oh, and my grandma’s dad’s motivation for leaving the church was the “debauchery and hipocracy.” My SIL asked grandma this weekend about it, and she told SIL that great grandpa didn’t approve of the “bundling.” SIL asked what that was. Grandma looked around to make sure no one was listening and whispered “It is S-E-X!” lol

That was Devil’s Plaqyground, and the associated book is Rumspringa. Both might help answer the OP’s questions.

It’s actually a German-by-way-of-Switzerland thing. But there was too much religious persecution in Europe so they all came to America. So the freedom to practice their religion as they want is the American bent to the whole thing. Check out the Wikipedia articles on the different sects of Amish to learn more.

Given its proximity to the fireplace thread, it’s really tough to not suggest they go into making cabinets for Chinese electric fireplaces…

I knew a Mennonite guy who was from a more bonnet-wearing community than car-driving, although tractor-driving was fine. It was customary to save money growing up for a year of experimentation on the outside. After the year, you decide to go home or stay on the outside. This particular guy elected to go back, but he’d discovered teh gay on the outside, and eventually left. He just went to college like anyone else would, moved to the big city and that was that. Other than being a really nice guy, he wasn’t particularly religious or in any way different than anyone else, accept he started college a bit later in life than usual.

Try reading Plain-Secrets- Outsider-among-Amish by Joe Mackall. It’s about a specific sect, Swartzentruber Amish, who are among the very most conservative. He includes stories about young Amish men and women who choose to leave the society. It’s not necessarily pretty.

I’ve met two ex-Amish in my life. Both laughed at the idea of permanent shunning and both howled at the idea the Amish mourn the ones that leave like they died. While they obviously couldn’t speak for all Amish everywhere, those stories were fiction as far as they were concerned.

Funny - based on what I know of the Amish if you leave before you join the church you aren’t shunned at all. Certainly, the Amish in my area don’t seem to have problems associating with non-Amish relatives. It’s when you leave after your baptism and joining the church that shunning would come up, and not always even then.

Of course, as everyone keeps saying, the Amish are not one monolithic group, each little group varies from the others.

We need an “ask the Ex-Amish” thread…

Not necessarily. If you leave before being Baptized and Confirmed, your family may have contact with you. You can go back and visit, have “vacations” back on the farm - the whole nine yards. It doesn’t mean you will or that they MUST welcome you; but at that stage there is some choice. Some kids even return as older adults, admit their error, and are welcome back.

Now ------- become Baptized and Confirmed members of the community and then leave for the English world and shunning is pretty much automatic and your friends and relatives don’t have a lot of choice. There are exceptions but they are rare.

Lots of places although it can be argued not by choice. In addition the Amish have communities in Costa Rico and (I believe) other countries.
Amish versus Mennonite -------- it’s not all over technology. As it was explained to me by the one branch of the family who has members in both (married into the family type relatives) it is more like the Great Schism in the Russian Catholic Church. In the late 1800s the majority wanted to stop holding meetings/worship strictly in homes and start having specific places/buildings for that purpose. Those became/moved towards the Mennonite Church. Some people stuck to tradition and they basically became what we now call Amish. There were a whole lot of sub-groups and other issues involved but that was the general “straw that honked off the camel”.

As a result, you have Mennonite living more primitive (we would say) than the Amish and you have Amish who do use cell phones (can’t say about the texting) and know how to drive cars. In other words, never assume with anyone from the various “Old Orders” or you may be wrong.
On topic ------ most Amish boys I have known who have left the community start in construction and move into assorted trades from there. The girls tend to start as waitresses and clerks and spread into other occupations from there. Few have any desire to farm but some will. Many have just the most basic of educations (although that is changing) and really don’t “catch up” until their 20s. I know one lady who managed to graduate and get a BA but she was a rare exception in my life.

Actually that IS what the movie portrayed. One teen who chose not to join church was not shunned. Another who joined church and then recanted was.

In western Canada they have Hutterite colonies. they live in a large communal organization, with roughly the same sort of setup. Unlike the traditional view of Amish, they allow modern equipment for farming, and combined with their communal nature have extremely large colonies that take advantage of the economies of scale. I think it’s some variation on Mennonite…

From what I know of their personal life, though, modern conveniences, and frivolous things are not allowed. Local small communities complain that they kill the business; because they would buy cloth wholesale from the big city and make their own dresses, don’t buy consumer goods, etc. They also have a 17th century mentality in that the guys will come into town for shopping, the women do all their heavy lifting and then have to wait in the truck while the guys go into the bar for a quick one… The girls all wear these little black covers over their hair buns and long dresses; but they will wear running shoes, but don’t shave their legs… etc. they speak some variant of high German, IIRC. Education generally stops about grade 8; some colonies are big enough to have a small school (part of the local school board) on the site. The live-in teachers may have internet, but the kids only use it for educational purposes.

Kind of reminds me of that Mormon sect place in Texas that was in the news, except they don’t have plural marriages and AFAIK none of those arranged marriages so the old guys get fresh young meat.

The same problem - kids who yearn for something more expansive or are troublemakers get kicked off the farm with just the clothes on their back and are shunned, and find they have no marketable skills. Like most traditional authoritarian groups, they don’t tolerate dissent and the group in charge has no problem ordering around the rest to keep themselves in charge.

17th Century. There was a Mennonite/Swiss Brethern named Jakob Ammann, who was upset with what he saw as laxness among the Mennonite community. He claimed, basically, that they didn’t take the bible literally and that they were too tolerant toward members who left the church…that they still associated with them and didn’t practice the ban. Ammann had some other complaints…that the Mennonites didn’t practice footwashing, that they only took communion once a year instead of twice, and a bunch of other smaller things, (Ammann was, for instance, upset that Mennonites were using buttons, which is often erroneously but humorously given as the split) but those were the main issues.

The Mennonite “fundamentalists”, for lack of a better word, sided with Ammann, and became the Amish.

What you’re talking about was a split in the Amish community in the 19th century, where some Amish groups rejoined the Mennonites

A lot of the same fields that poorly-educated, low-skills people go into: trucking*, waiting tables**, construction***, etc.

*This I learned from a book about some Amish fellow who left the church, discovered teh gay, got a job as a trucker, and went around the country blowing other truckers at seedy rest stops. At some point he took a shine to murdering them, and then he abducted his son (he was married briefly) and things got hairy, and I’m not sure how it all panned out. I wish I could remember the name of the book.

**This I saw first-hand. I was eating at a local restaurant in some small town in Ohio, and struck up a conversation with the waitress. Turns out she had been raised Amish but had left the community. I didn’t pry any further.

***This from a documentary about some town in Indiana (I think) and the Amish community nearby. A lot of the teenagers going through Rumspringa(sp?) get apartments/jobs/etc. in town. A boss at a local construction company said he loves hiring Amish boys because they have impeccable work ethics and are good with tools.

Just as an overview, in 16th century Germany, during the Reformation, there was a radical religious movement called the Anabaptists (“rebaptizers”, because they believed that only adults could be baptized…infant baptism didn’t “count”). After a bunch of really interesting events caused by the Anabaptists that included a peasant revolt and the seizure of the city of Munster that led to the establishment of a theocratic polygamous commune led by somebody who believed that he was the reincarnation of an old testament prophet, the Anabaptists who weren’t massacred by the authorities renounced violence, and different branches of the peaceful Anabaptists became the Hutterites, the Mennonites, and the Christian Brethren.