In many communities, Rumspringa is a period when some Amish youth, boys more than girls, experience greater freedom. They are no longer under the control of their parents on weekends and, because they are not baptized, they are not yet under the authority of the church. During this time, many Amish youth adhere to traditional Amish behavior. Others experiment with “worldly” activities—buying a car, going to movies, wearing non-Amish clothes, buying a television. In larger Amish settlements, an adolescent’s behavior often depends on the peer group he or she chooses to join. Amish parents may worry about which group their child will join because the choice will influence the teen’s behavior.

Traditional youth activities include volleyball, swimming, ice skating, picnics, hiking, and large outdoor “supper” parties. The most typical gatherings are “singings.” Groups meet in a home and sing German hymns and English gospel songs for several hours and then enjoy a time of conversation and food. The more rebellious groups sometimes drive cars, rent buildings for parties, or go to bars and nightclubs in nearby towns.

A fling with worldliness reminds Amish youth that they have a choice regarding church membership; however, most of the forces of Amish life funnel them toward church membership. Knowing they have a choice likely strengthens their willingness to obey church standards and, in the long run, the authority of the church itself.

The practice of Rumspringa varies greatly from community to community. Some church districts provide adult supervision, but others do not. Rumspringa as a wild rebellious experience is virtually unknown in some smaller settlements and in certain affiliations. In fact, the practice is suppressed among some Amish subgroups, including many New Order groups.

Additional information

  • See chapter 12, “From Rumspringa to Marriage,” in Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt, The Amish. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • Richard A. Stevick, Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years. 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).
  • The Amish Youth Vision Project works to lower alcohol and drug use among Old Order Amish youth and to strengthen family support systems by creating an intervention program for these risk behaviors. The initiation and planning of the program includes Amish input, and the Amish community holds primary responsibility for the program’s introduction and maintenance.

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture.

Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a collaborative research grant on Amish diversity and identity in the 20th century. The research team included principal investigator Donald B. Kraybill of Elizabethtown College (Pa.) and two co-investigators, Steven M. Nolt of Goshen College (Ind.) and Karen M. Johnson-Weiner of SUNY Potsdam (New York).

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in the summer. Other information will be revised and added on a periodic basis.

Recent books

The Amish book cover Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013; paperback available in January 2018)

The Amish: A Concise Introduction book cover

Author: Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)