Mennonites (Origin, Beliefs, Practices)

As a Christian and theologian, I am always intrigued by different Christian denominations and groups. A Christian group that has captured my attention for quite a while now is the Mennonites. I first met this group several years back when I was in theology school in Pennsylvania. Living in a region highly denominated by them, I learned their beliefs, practices, origin, and how they conduct their day-to-day lives. Recently, I decided to join forums that discuss the different Christian sects that have existed and stayed true to their beliefs through the years. The Mennonites came up in one of the forums, and some of the members wanted to know their history and traditions. Having lived with the Mennonites and conducted a lot of research about them, I easily shared my knowledge with the forum members about the Mennonites. So, let’s look at the beliefs, practices, and origin of the Mennonites.

The Mennonites were birthed during the Anabaptism movement that happened in the 16 century in central Europe. The Anabaptism opposed the protestant teaching about infant baptism. The name Mennonite came from one of the leaders of the Anabaptism movement, who was a former Dutch Priest, Simons Menno. Mennonites are more conservative compared to Catholics and Protestants, and this can be seen through their dress and the rules that govern them.

So, join me as I dig deeper into the Mennonites. I will share with you all the interesting facts about this Christian sect, including its history, origin, lifestyle, culture, traditions, beliefs, and rules. I will also discuss how the Mennonites differ from the Amish and Christian Protestants. So, keep reading to learn about this and more.

History of Mennonites

Mennonites origin
History of Mennonites. Image source: Pinterest

Mennonites are a Christian sect with their roots dating back to the 16 century. They are linked to an Anabaptist group that came up in Zurich, the January of 1525. The Anabaptists, led by leaders like Huldrych Zwingli, Felix Manz, and Konrad Grebel, deviated from the mainstream church as they questioned the church’s nature. Though their reformation mainly centered on infant baptism, they had other issues which directly questioned how the church ran. The Anabaptists demanded that the church should only be made of only those who publicly and voluntarily admit their faith in Christ (through baptizing adult believers). These demands were met with suppression and persecution from both the political class and authorities.

However, this movement continued to grow and attracted several Christian leaders, one of them being Menno Simons, who was then a Dutch priest. Menno joined the Anabaptism movement after intensive self-reflection. He converted and accepted the teachings of Anabaptism in the year 1536 after serving as a priest since 1524. Such a bold move by the priest led to the birth of the Mennonites, who were named after him.

Where did Mennonites come from? Origin of Mennonites?

As mentioned above, the Mennonites were birthed from and during the Anabaptism movement that happened in the Dutch and German-speaking parts of Central Europe. The Anabaptism rejected some of the teachings of the protestant and catholic churches. Therefore, they claim not to be a part of either of these two groups. They were against infant baptism and did not ascribe to any teachings of violence.

After the death of Menno Simons in 1561, some of the Anabaptists came to be referred to as Mennonites, taking Simons’ second name due to his teachings and leadership during the Anabaptism movement. It is important to note that during this period, many Anabaptists were killed because they believed that God did not condone using force or killing others. Therefore, many of them did not struggle or fight for their lives. However, some Anabaptism groups, like Batenburgers, were willing to fight, but this led to their destruction.

Where do Mennonites live?

Currently, Mennonites mainly live in the US and Canada. They occupy cities like Winnipeg, and some of them settled in Southern Ontario. As mentioned above, the Anabaptist movement started in central Europe, but due to the persecutions and the hardships that the Mennonites and other Anabaptists were put through, they had to move places. Some of them moved and first settled in Poland and Prussia and later entered Russia. Other Mennonites who came from Southern Germany and Switzerland migrated to North America. Those who had settled in Russia joined them, and they both moved to Central and South America.

The Mennonites and other groups of the Anabaptism movement were running away from the persecution and were after a convenient environment where they could exercise their beliefs free from violence. Currently, you will find Mennonites living in Pennsylvania, Manitoba, Winnipeg, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Vancouver.

Mennonites’ beliefs and practices

Mennonites beliefs
Mennonites’ beliefs and practices. Image source: Pinterest

What is the Mennonite lifestyle?

A Mennonite lifestyle is a lifestyle that adheres to and agrees with the perspectives on Anabaptism. Though the lifestyle of Mennonites is a bit different from other denominations like Catholics and Protestants, their core Christian beliefs are the same. Mennonites emphasize living a holy life centered on Christ, serving others, and preaching peacemaking and reconciliation so loud.

However, when analyzing the day-to-day lives of Mennonites, this varies from one Mennonite group to another. The older Mennonites groups that have remained reserved and conservative mostly live in rural areas and uphold community as a center of their lives. However, other groups live in urban areas, drive cars, use technology, and are not as closed off, despite holding onto Anabaptism beliefs.

What are Mennonite traditions?

Traditionally, Mennonites have continued to practice the beliefs held by the early church, like love-feast. Some of the traditions that they have also maintained and can be seen in some Mennonites groups even now are emphasis on the community, not conforming to the beliefs of the world, sharing of possessions, covering their heads, and a few of them are non-resistance.

Additionally, the conservative and old-order Mennonites groups still practice traditions like worshiping through songs, and their women have to wear prayer caps during church sessions. These groups also do not allow using of instruments during worshipping. However, more liberal Mennonite groups have let go of this tradition and have embraced using instruments like organ, brass, or piano.

Furthermore, the traditional Mennonite churches taught the seven ordinances. This includes communion, baptism, marriage, anointing with old, foot washing, prayer covering, and the holy kiss. These teachings are to be adhered to by any member who identifies themselves as Mennonite. The Mennonites also practice adult baptism, which is the longest-surviving tradition and belief among all Mennonite groups.

What is Mennonite culture?

The Mennonite culture represents the Mennonite group’s social character. The culture has been strongly inspired by their emphasis on separating the world and religion. By this, the Mennonites lead lives that are centered on discipline and are tightly bout to their communities. This isolation led to a hard work culture among the Mennonites.

What are Mennonite religious beliefs?

The Mennonites do not ascribe to Catholicism or Protestantism but believe their faith has some roots in both denominations. The main emphasis and belief of the Mennonite church is in pacifism, reconciliation, and peacemaking. Their faith is centered around Jesus Christ, as they believe that he died on the cross to save humans from their languishing in sin.

Furthermore, Mennonites believe that by practicing an “organized religion,” members of their church will easily understand their purpose. They also encourage participating in missionary work, and since their lives are centered on community, Mennonite members are required to actively serve and engage in community activities.

Additionally, another key religious belief of Mennonites is based on how they view baptism. They strongly oppose infant baptism and thus practice adult baptism. They believe that by being baptized as an adult, one accepts and commits to the teachings of the church publicly.

What type of Christianity is Mennonite?

As mentioned above, the Mennonites are a part of Anabaptism Christianity. This type of Christianity does not identify itself with Protestants or Catholics but holds a few beliefs of both. The main belief that sets Anabaptism apart is their belief in adult baptism. They also strongly believe in non-violence, and peacemaking and reconciliation is a key identity of their denomination.

Mennonite population





Asia and the Pacific

315, 645

Caribbean, central & South America

186, 339


64, 575

North America

529, 108

Types of Mennonites

Types of Mennonites. Image source: Freepik

Despite the Mennonites having a common goal of why they distanced themselves from Lutheran and Catholic teachings, they did not remain unified forever. From them rose three different types of Mennonites; those who are referred to as Old Order Mennonites, Conservative Mennonites, and Conference Mennonites.

Conference Mennonites

Conference Mennonites get their name, “conference,” from the small church groups they have, referred to as conferences. This group of Mennonites is mostly liberal and mostly referred to as worldly. You will hardly distinguish them from the general public unless you ask them about their faith; that’s when you will know they are Mennonites. Some common denominations that belong to Conference Mennonites include; the Virginia Mennonite Conference, Canadian Conference, Christian Mennonite Conference, Franconia Mennonite Conference, Ohio-Indiana Mennonite Conference, and Canadian Conference.

This type of Mennonites mostly notes that though they are in the world, they are not of the world. However, they embrace nationalist values, and some of them serve even in the military. They listen to modern music and embrace the current technological trends.

Conservative Mennonites

Another type of Mennonites who are a stark contrast to the Conference ones are the Conservative Mennonites. You will mistake this group of Mennonites for the Amish, as they are quite closed and reserved. However, how they run their day-to-day lives is different from the Amish communities. They hold onto a common Mennonite ideology that considers the modern church to be going against the true beliefs of the church. The Conservative Mennonites then withdrew from the main and modern church and started their own denomination, which was more reserved.

You will easily recognize a conservative Mennonite through their outfits which are quite unique from other Mennonite groups. Some common Conservative Mennonites sects include; the Ohio Wisler Mennonites, Biblical Mennonite Alliance, Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church, and the Conservative Mennonite Conference.

However, though this category of Mennonites has not fully embraced the current technological and worldly trends, they enjoy modern conveniences as they own and drive cars. However, since they strive to live simple and humble lives, their cars are black and expected not to draw any form of attention.

Old Order Mennonites

There is then another type of Mennonites that even further distinguishes themselves from the modern world, the Old Order Mennonites. Now this group of Mennonites is almost a photocopy of the Amish, as they practice almost similar rules and beliefs and lead a similar lifestyle. Just like the Amish, this group of Mennonites is also referred to as the “horse and buggy” Mennonites. Despite them being the minority among the Mennonites, they give people a hard time differentiating between Mennonites and the Amish. If you have ever mistaken the Amish to be Mennonites, then no, these two groups are quite different, though they both originate from the Anabaptism movement.

Some denominations that are part of the Old Older Mennonites include; Reformed Mennonites, Orthodox Mennonites, Reidenbach Old Order Mennonites, Stauffer Mennonites, and Virginia Old Older Mennonite Conference. This type of Mennonites emphasizes togetherness and community and has not embraced most technological trends. You will get them in monochromatic clothing, with no jewelry, and they mostly live in rural areas. Just like the Amish, this group of Mennonites practice shunning and ex-communication with community members who go against their rules.

What are Mennonite rules on courtship and marriage?

Mennonites Practices
Mennonite rules on courtship. Image source: Pinterest

The Mennonites being part of the Anabaptism, they believe that marriage should adhere to biblical teachings. The Mennonites believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment that is sacred as it was instituted as a part of the plan of God for humanity, based on Genesis 2:24. Furthermore, Mennonites were encouraged to marry within the same church (forbidden from marrying non-Mennonites). However, this has changed over the years and differs from one Mennonite group to the other.

Women are expected to be submissive to their husbands, and husbands are supposed to love their wives, as indicated in Ephesians 5:22-25. Mennonites strictly observe biblical rules, and thus submission is a huge part of marriage amongst them. Married women in the Mennonite religion put on bonnets, which symbolize their submission to their husbands. It is also a sign to the public showing their marital status so as for the suitors to keep away.

A key rule that Mennonites observe during courting as they do not allow their community members to engage in sexual relations before marriage as it is against biblical teachings (1 Corinthians 7:2). When it comes to gender roles within a marriage, men are the heads of the house and women are expected to serve them while nurturing the kids. Furthermore, if you are a woman and not yet married, you are expected to be subservient to your father till your marriage.

And though most Mennonite groups no longer practice arranged marriages, they still seek approval from the families involved before officiating a marriage. This is because all Mennonites group take marriage seriously. Therefore, families play a huge role in making such a decision.

Mennonites also disapprove of divorce, based on biblical teachings found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Some more closed and reserved Mennonites groups even go to the extent of punishing couples who get divorced. However, the more liberal ones have relaxed their rules a little bit when it comes to divorce, and you might get Mennonite couples divorcing due to spousal abuse.

What are Mennonite rules on clothing?

Mennonite rules on clothing. Image source: Pixabay

Clothing among the Mennonites is based on modesty and simplicity. Their clothes speak volumes about their religious beliefs, service to others, and humility. They mostly dress in monochrome clothes, plain shirts or suits, and plain-colored dresses; men wear straw hats, and women wear bonnets. Women can also cover their heads with veils or scarves. Most Mennonites groups do not allow their members to dress in flashy or intricate colors as they believe in attracting the least attention. Their clothes are usually made from long-lasting fabrics like linen, cotton, and wool. Most Mennonites believe that they have to avoid vanity and not include unnecessary adornment on decorations on their clothes.

Traditional rules that governed women dressing in the Mennonite community required them to be in a calf-length dress that was simple. The dress should have long sleeves and can be decorated with something subtle like lace. The women also wore modest undergarments like stockings, bloomers, or socks. Mennonite men must be in simple trousers paired with a shirt or suit. They can also wear pocket watches, vests, straw hats, and suspenders. However, suspenders are more common among the Amish.

Differences between Mennonites and Amish

Though the Amish and Mennonites root in the Anabaptism movement and have common historical roots and basic Christian doctrines, the difference between these two sects is how they interpret their doctrines and live out their lives. Below is a table showing the key differences between these two denominations;




Named after

Menno Simons

Jakob Amman


Embrace and use modern technology

Have refused to accept and embrace the current technology trend


More liberal groups have church buildings, while others meet for services at home.

Only have home church services.

Structure of church

Most Mennonite groups have church structures that resemble protestant churches (formal buildings and pastors).

Their churches are structured into districts, determined by geographical distance since they hold church services at home.

Participation (non-violence and non-resistance)

The Amish do not participate in political activities or take oaths, which means they do not even vote. Their beliefs are based on non-resistance.

On the other, Mennonites have a strong belief in non-violence, but they participate in some political activities like voting.


Most Mennonites groups encourage school learning among their children.

Encourage school learning till 8th grade. However, afterward, they believe that education will expose their kids to the outside world. Therefore, Amish children often start engaging in community activities after 8th grade.

Differences between Mennonites and Protestant Christians



Protestant Christians


Do not believe nor practice infant baptism.

Some Practice infant baptism.


Older groups of Mennonites have a dress that their members must adhere to.

Have no specific dress code.


Simons Menno

Martin Luther (led the Protestantism Reformation)

Church structure

Decentralized structure

Hierarchical structure

Believes about the contemporary society and government

They believe in separating themselves from the state and the contemporary society.

They do not believe in separating the church from the government or the society.

How to Become a Mennonite

How to Become a Mennonite. Image source: Pixabay

Requirements for Becoming a Mennonite

The main requirement for anyone to become a Mennonite is to agree and be ready to commit to the Anabaptist beliefs and biblical foundations. One thing the Anabaptists strongly oppose is infant baptism. They believe that baptizing one with water should be reserved for adults alone, as adults can make sound decisions and decide which way to commit to when it comes to their faith. And though the Mennonite church was created out of different backgrounds, their core belief is to unite in mission and faith, as they believe that is what the Holy Spirit has called the church to do, based on Acts 1, 2. You should take time to understand the Mennonite beliefs for yourself before committing to them.

After you have agreed to commit to these beliefs, you are baptized, which is a sign of publicly declaring your faith. Mennonite baptisms take place before the congregations and are only done to adult followers. Furthermore, you will be required to make an oral or written personal testimony of faith, depending on the Mennonite church you choose to join. After being baptized, you will have fully converted to being a Mennonite and will be required to adhere to their traditions and beliefs.

Can anyone become a Mennonite?

Yes, anyone can become a Mennonite. You do not have to be born into this sect to be one. However, it will be a bit of a dance before fully converting and being a part of this denomination, mostly if you want to join a Mennonite community that is more conservative. To groups that are more liberal, you can become a Mennonite member by committing to the Anabaptism perspective and accepting to be baptized. Furthermore, if you marry in the Mennonite church, you can convert to one, and your children will be considered Mennonites.

Therefore, it would be easy to join a liberal Mennonite church compared to a conservative one. Conservative groups have extreme beliefs regarding dressing, worship styles, and how they conduct their lives. Therefore, such beliefs present a challenge to anyone who wants to convert to this religion.

What to remember as a new Mennonite

Though you might come across some conservative Mennonite churches, you might still find it a bit challenging to rest in the Mennonite beliefs, especially if you were not raised in this church. However, the basic things that you should remember as a new Mennonite is that Jesus Christ is the center of the Mennonite faith, they are strong proponents of reconciliation and peace, and community is a key part of their lives. With these three, you can navigate through this faith easily. All you will have to do is observe community rules and push the mission of the Mennonite church.

Other facts to know about Mennonites

The Mennonites are diverse, and there is always something new to learn about them. An important fact to know about the Mennonites is their stand when it comes to the homosexuality community. Most Mennonites groups like the Mennonite Church USA have strongly opposed homosexuality and term the act as a sin.

Another fact to learn about the Mennonites is that the more liberal groups live in cities and have no rules regarding dressing and technology. Their members embrace how the world is evolving but still strongly emphasize that they are just in the world but not a part of it.

Another fact to know about the Mennonites is that the conservative Mennonites and old-order Mennonites do not embrace certain modern developments like birth control. Families are a huge part of them, and they value kids.

More about the Mennonites

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