The Amish go through this period called rumspringa, or running about. Between 15 to 20 years old, your community will choose to turn a blind eye if you go out to explore the English world. Maybe you get a job at McDonald’s. Maybe you even buy a used car. You may still live at home, and maybe have your car behind the family barn, so you don’t embarrass your parents. Basically, the Amish are given a chance to explore our world. They are making an informed decision. In a sense, when are they truly deciding to become Amish, they are rejecting our world.
In the 1960s and 1970s, 75% of Amish children would decide to become Amish adults. The most recent statistics show that’s up to 95%.
Sociologically, it’s a really important part of their culture that they allow young people to spend some time in our world. They have to decide: Am I going to become Amish? It’s an incredibly important decision because if they choose not to become Amish, they can come and go as they please. They probably can’t live in their parents’ house anymore, but they’re welcome to come back and celebrate birthdays with her family.
If they choose to become Amish and then leave the Amish church, then they are shunned. They’re no longer allowed to come and go. Nobody in the community is allowed to speak to them ever again. That’s true with your parents and siblings and everyone else who were in the Amish church. And this is their way of saying: Look, you’re either going to make a commitment to us or not, but that commitment has to be complete.