The Amish in America are a community that is private by choice. They choose to separate themselves from the "outsiders" because of strict religious beliefs that state Biblical scriptures such as; "do not be unequally yoked," and "be not conformed of this world." The Amish believe that by removing themselves from the "outsiders" that they can draw closer to God. They have a sense of real community, helping each other as needed. They are not active in governmental affairs, but some do vote. Some may take unemployment money (as in Indiana) since it is setup as business money being returned to them, but they won't take social security (since this is seen as insurance). As associating with outsiders, they do so when they need a driver to go long distances. They will not serve as soldiers in the military, but some will serve as medical personal in the military if pressed.
There are some Amish who choose to leave the community. There is an Amish practice in place called "shunning" or "meidung" where an "Amish Church Member" is basically ignored by the community for a breach of religious guidelines - the Amish Community can have no business or social interactions with the shunned person until they repent and are taken back into the fold. This is very serious and if they repent they are welcomed back into the fold, if not the unrepentant person will most likely leave. They may not go too far, since all of their family members are most likely Amish, so to leave the church is to leave the family. The most common reason for "shunning" is because of marriage outside the Amish faith.
As for the youth - Rumspringa is the permission given to the Amish youth when they turn 16 but have not been baptized by the church or become a church member - to "to see the world". The Amish youth may enjoy the "outside world", they may drive a car, they may go hang out at the beach, they might own a cell phone, they might date a non Amish. Most of those eligible for Rumspringa do not abuse the privilege by throwing all to the wind. They usually participate in "normal youth" activities that may or may not be overseen by the church. The Amish believe that only adults can make a decision to join the church. The Amish practice adult baptism instead of infant/youth baptism. Rumspringa ends when the youth makes the decision to be baptized and join the church.
Baptism is performed usually between the ages of 16-24. Those who choose to be baptized sit in church with one hand over their face to symbolize their humility and are asked three questions. Can you renounce the world, the devil and your own flesh and blood? Can you commit yourself to the church and to Christ, to abide, to live and to die? In all order of the church be submissive and obedient and to help therein? The Bishop then drips water over the head of the candidate and then blesses the young men and greets them in fellowship with a holy kiss, the Bishop’s wife does the same for the female candidates.
Amish youth are educated in one room classrooms that are run by Amish parents or hired Amish teachers (sometimes a recent grad) until the eighth or ninth grade. In many states education is only required up till the 8th or 9th grade. The Amish Religious views are for their children to stop formal education at 8th or 9th grade. Schooling may continue in the home in the form of Amish socialization and skill learning. The Amish believe in education strongly and teach math, history, reading and basic writing skills. Literacy is at 100% of the population. English is taught in school although Pennsylvania Dutch (German dialect) is generally what is spoken within the Amish home.
The Amish home or family life is the most important social unit within the Amish community. It is common for families to be large with as many as 7-11 children. The Father is head of the household and oversees the farm work, building and other trades. Any sons that he may have will begin working with their Father at a young age to be trained in a vocation. The same goes for any daughters in the house. They will work with their mother cleaning, cooking and sewing for their vocation. Which not only encourages a vocation for adulthood, but prepares them for marriage.
Amish weddings are a community event that hold much joy and tradition. When a couple becomes engaged it is held secret until just a few weeks before the wedding. Weddings are generally held in late fall after the last harvest. In preparation for her wedding, the bride makes a new dress which will from then on be known as her "good" dress for any other formal occasions she might attend. The bride’s dress is typically made in blue and this is also when she will change her black head piece to the married woman’s white. the wedding is held at the bride’s home and the newlywed couple will spend their first night there as well. Before marriage a young man is kept clean shaven, but required to grow his beard after marriage.
The Amish have very strict guidelines on proper dress, but it does vary among the orders. Typically women wear solid color dresses covered with an apron or a cape. Their hair is kept long; never cut and worn in a bun. Amish women are not permitted to wear jewelry, makeup or patterned clothing. Amish men wear straight cut suits and coats without collars or lapels. Belts, ties and sweaters are forbidden. Pleats and creases are not allowed in either the men’s clothing or the women’s bonnets and aprons. As with the women’s clothing, it is plain and usually one color that is dark. The Amish style of dress is one that encourages humility and is symbolic of their faith.
All these rules and guidelines are known as "The Ordnung" which defines what it means to be Amish and the laws of their faith as ordered by the church. The Ordnung provides rules for every aspect of the Amish life. Each order may have different rules, meaning some Amish may appear to be strict than others in what is allowed in regards to dress, possessions, etc.
The main thing that sets the Amish apart from the rest of society is their lifestyle focused on their devotion to God. They follow the Bible in it's teaching that we have humility, love, kindness, peace, joy. They go to great lengths to avoid pride, violence and haughtiness. Their rural lifestyle is done in regards to be separate from the world - to embrace family and the plain way of doing things. Because of the economy, many Amish have been forced to leave their homesteads and work among society in markets where they engage in shop work. Amish tend to be independent people preferring less outside interaction in the business area, but they are friendly and very helpful.