Do Mennonites have rumspringa (the Amish rite of passage)?

As a theologian, I have encountered many Christian sects during my travels around the world. The Mennonites are one of the most fascinating of them all. My fascination with them started when I met a small group of them in Pennsylvania during one of my tours. Since it was a research tour, I discovered that the Mennonites have similar beliefs and practices to the Amish community including the rite of passage. Recently, in one of the online forums that I am an active member of, one of the members asked what rumspringa was among the Mennonites, and another asked what exactly happens during this period. Because I have interacted with the Mennonites and conducted extensive research about their culture and traditions, I had all the answers in my fingertips. I explained to the members what Rumspringa was and if it is practiced among the Mennonites. So, do Mennonites have rumspringa?

Yes, Mennonites have rumspringa; however, rumspringa for Mennonites usually starts at age seventeen, which is older than the Amish, who start at age sixteen. Rumspringa is, however, not practised with all communities of Mennonites since each community is governed by its own unique set of rules.

So join me as I explain more about rumspringa in the Amish community. I will look at what it entails and what happens when the youth are in the rumspringa period. Keep reading to learn more.

What is rumspringa among the Amish?

Do Mennonites have rumspringa?
Rumspringa among the Amish. Image source: Pinterest

Rumspringa is a Dutch word which translates to running around in English. During Rumspringa, the youth in the Amish community are allowed to venture into the world and try out things that they were previously not allowed to take part in. Rumspringa usually starts when a person reaches sixteen years. During this period, members of the Amish youth are allowed to have regular jobs, own a phone and even drive cars which are strongly prohibited in the community.

Rumspringa typically ends when the individual decides to have had enough of the outside world and gets baptized. After this, you are expected to follow the rules of the church, which have you go back to the life you were living before. During this period, the youth in the Amish community have greater freedom, allowing them to be more social and participate in traditional activities such as swimming, hiking, ice skating, and parties.

Rumspringa has no prescribed date, but many of the youth usually come to a decision by the age of twenty-three. After these, they now resume normal communal duties and are even assigned responsibilities as a member of the community.

What happens during rumspringa?

During Rumspringa, adolescents in the Amish community are allowed to take part in activities that they were formally not allowed to take part in or activities that they had to do under supervision. During rumspringa, the males in the community usually go into the world to get jobs and interact with outsiders. The job opportunities for the Amish male adolescents usually are in the manufacturing industries and other low-skill jobs since they do not have a proper education since education for the Amish typically ends in the eighth grade. For the female counterparts, they have much more limited job opportunities as they usually only get jobs as caregivers.

During this period, the youth are allowed to wear other clothes, such as jeans and colourful clothing, and are not restricted to the planned dressing code that they are known for. They are also allowed to go to parties and socialize more with other youths in the community or even outside the community. The parties held in the community are mostly supervised by the elderly in society. Male youths are even allowed to get driver’s licenses and drive cars; however, it is not only restricted to males.

However, during this period, some of the youth get lost in irresponsible behaviours such as reckless drinking and premarital sex. Due to the fact that they are from a conservative and secluded community, many of the youth have no information on how to protect themselves from such things.

What is the purpose of rumspringa?

the Amish rite of passage?
Purpose of rumspringa. Image source: Pinterest

Rumspringa in the Amish community is a time to experiment and come up with lifelong decisions and commitment. Rumspringa serves three purposes it allows the adolescent to decide whether he or she wants to become a member of the church, it also provides a way to in their interactions among themselves in youth groups and finally, a chance to date and find a lifelong partner. During rumspringa, many of the youth in the community get together to know each other and hold group events which are usually held on the weekends after church in one of the homes of the members. The youth usually meet to sing German hymns or English gospel songs and interact with each other with minimal to no supervision.

During this time, the youth also take a chance to find a mate and date each other. Typically dating starts when a boy offers a girl a ride home after church. After which they will send letters to each other and meet mostly during the weekends as weekdays are reserved for work. Before any finalities are made, they both have to get a blessing from their parents the start preparing for marriage.

Why don’t Mennonites have rumspringa?

Some Mennonite groups do have rumspringa; however, Mennonite rumspringa starts late at seventeen instead of sixteen. Just like the Amish, not all Mennonite groups practice rumspringa. The exact reason why they do not have rumspringa is not known, but different sects have their own set of rules, and that may be the reason why some have them while others do not. Furthermore, even when comparing the Mennonites and Amish, the Amish are more reserved and hold on to traditional practices like Rumspringa.

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