The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Christian ethics and theology with an Anabaptist perspective
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mike
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The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby mike » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:35 pm

The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Interesting comments from a Southern Baptist perspective on Amish birth rates and retention.

When we think of happening Christian groups, we typically imagine big church conferences, exciting worship concerts, and authentic community groups meeting in local coffee shops. Given this mindset, the following information will probably blow your mind and the minds of most people in your church. In fact, you may need to sit down for this.

The fastest growing sector of the evangelical world right now is the Amish. That is correct—our beard sporting, bonnet wearing, and buggy driving brothers and sisters are expanding at a record pace. Over the past five years, the Amish have grown by 18 percent. Between 2015-2016, they started 66 new congregations. They have even reached out to South America, planting communities in both Bolivia and Argentina. During that same time, the number of people that attend Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches declined by 11 percent.

Despite our well-trained SBC clergy, our smooth programming, and our billion dollar budgets, SBC churches are losing out to their brothers and sisters who churn their own butter. What’s more, the Amish have no major outreach campaigns. They typically struggle to reach out to people outside their villages, making their growth even more perplexing to SBC and other evangelical denominations. Yet since 1992, the Amish have been beating our church growth percentages left and right.

When researchers began studying this phenomenon, they discovered that the growth of the Amish movement had little to do with cold calling evangelism and everything to do with birthrate and education.

The latest birthrate statistics for the SBC estimate that each SBC couple has around 2.1 kids, a number that sits below the replacement level. Once death and other things are factored in, SBC churches would slowly die even if every kid born to SBC parents stayed in the church. And unfortunately, they do not. Almost 51 percent of all evangelical kids (including our SBC’ers) will leave the church. Most of those children will not return. For a church to maintain its size, every member (including the single ones) in the church must bring about 1.2 people into the church via birth or evangelism.

The Amish do not have this problem. The average Amish couple has 6.8 kids per family. And 85 percent of their children will choose to remain in the Amish community. When given the chance to freely choose between the modern world and the Amish lifestyle, more than 8 out of 10 Amish children choose to stay. Every Amish couple will add about 5 kids to their local church’s congregation, while the average Baptist couple will add about 1. And when the couples die off, the Amish church will have grown by 150 percent, while the SBC church will have decreased by 50 percent if birthrate is the only factor.

These numbers show that evangelism is not the major failing of our local SBC and evangelical churches. Our problem has everything to do with our view of children and the family. Churches that do not have members having children will not succeed.

Now, every Christian does not have to embrace the Duggar family lifestyle. Christ is still our ultimate goal and not family size. But, we must begin to revive pro-family values in our churches. Being pro-family goes well past having a catchy kids’ program. We need to celebrate birth. We need to praise parents for having big families instead of chastising them with snide comments. We need to come to the point where we value kids more than traveling, nice homes, and our own tranquility. We need to live as if children are a blessing.

And then, we need to commit to training our kids. We need to organize our families around the Gospel. We need to have intentional times of family worship. We must realize that going to church twice a week or twice a month will not provide our kids with an adequate religious framework. We must realize that the world evangelizes our kids 7 days a week. We must do the same. And we must intentionally find ways to protect our kids from the dangerous doctrines of the world and find ways to train them in righteousness. Commenting on Psalm 1, the pastor Voddie Bauchman says,

We must not allow our children to stand, sit and walk with those who deny biblical truth and morality … We can no longer coast along and ignore biblical truth when deciding where and how to educate our children … Do everything in your power to place your child in an educational environment that supplements and facilitates their discipleship.

The Amish have understood this truth and have applied it. As a result of their faithfulness, most of their children remain in their communities and churches. The Baptists and other evangelicals have not grasped this principles. And now, we are losing over half of our kids to the world around us. The realities cannot be denied.

Now admittedly, the Amish have not gotten everything right. I do not think electricity leads to sin. I also think our churches should be more evangelistic than the typical Amish farmer. But the Amish have realized that family is key. They have functionally realized that children under the age of 18 are the population most open to being evangelized and have literally devoted a large portion of their life to reaching this next generation. If we want our SBC and evangelical Bible-believing churches to once again flourish, we too must be pro-family and do a better job of training our children in the faith. Are we willing to make the hard choices and to become a little more Amish?

Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.


I was particularly interested in what the author puts forth as solutions to what he sees as the problems in his own church. (Bold and underlined above.)
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Ernie
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Ernie » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:53 pm

mike wrote:
Almost 51 percent of all evangelical kids (including our SBC’ers) will leave the church."

And now, we are losing over half of our kids to the world around us.


I wonder how they define "losing" and "leaving" the church?

In some communities, I think half the Amish don't stay Amish but some of them might become Mennonite or Amish-Mennonite.

Moderate-Conservative Anabaptists like Midwest Fellowship and Beachy Amish-Mennonites often lose half, but more often that not they join some more progressive Anabaptist group or some Evangelical group.

Keeping one's offspring in the church doesn't necessarily mean that the manner in which they are kept is honorable. Many Old Order Anabaptists, Conservative Anabaptists, and Mormons put a lot of pressure on their people stay with their particular brand of church, when they should be teaching their children the beliefs, values, and practices to look for in a church.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Sudsy » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:35 pm

Sounds to me similar to what Muslims do- expand their religion by having big families. Also, when you have a religion that threatens leaving with huge consequences and teach that from youth, it is no wonder they have less drop outs. Amish may be a fast growing church percentage wise but they are a trickle of the population who are churched. I don't see where Jesus said to grow His Church through big families and threatening consequences of leaving the church.

Actually, one could argue that many mainline and some evangelicals today are losing their members as they, like the Amish, are not relating anymore to modern society. They stick with things like church pipe organ music, pews, choir robes, pulpits, same format, etc and the younger generation cannot relate to this style anymore. If they had more consequences to leaving, like the Amish or Muslims do, they probably would have less drop outs.

Imo, if you want to grow the Kingdom of God, we can't be stuck in some tradition. Some see this as being 'worldly' to break away from certain traditions. I see this as what Paul said about being all things to all people to win them to Christ. Pretty uncomfortable for some of us older folks but we can either isolate ourselves or join in and provide some help to how the Kingdom of God can still be holy and growing in modern ways.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Ernie » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:46 pm

There is some truth in what you are saying, but the point of the article was to identify Christian values that Evangelicals are not passing on very well, and there is truth in that as well.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Sudsy » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:33 pm

Ernie wrote:There is some truth in what you are saying, but the point of the article was to identify Christian values that Evangelicals are not passing on very well, and there is truth in that as well.


Agree. The influence of modern society on how children are raised today is strong. Our society presents many attractions (probably more than any society in the past) that are non-stop and very appealing to the old nature, our flesh. Children need to be taught about this spiritual warfare we are in and how to war in it.

I don't really care for pointing at Evangelicals in general as that is like how the Amish use the label the 'English'. There are Evangelicals that do pass on Christian values quite well.

Imo, there is a need for a certain amount of protection and isolation (i.e. Christian schools up to a certain age) but too much of this can result in little to no engagement with unbelievers were they habit. It can result in not experiencing the power of God in one's life when face to face with the powers of darkness. We need children to be trained in warfare and when old enough to engage the enemy where he is most active.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Josh » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:28 pm

There are no consequences to never joining Amish church. The consequences are for joining as an adult and then leaving.

That makes it even more perplexing so many 18 to 20 year olds choose to join.

Incidentally, similar statistics hold forth in the CGC, Mennonite, with similar consequences for joining and leaving.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby mike » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:39 pm

Josh wrote:There are no consequences to never joining Amish church. The consequences are for joining as an adult and then leaving.

That makes it even more perplexing so many 18 to 20 year olds choose to join.

Incidentally, similar statistics hold forth in the CGC, Mennonite, with similar consequences for joining and leaving.


I think marriage has some effect - you can't marry if you're not a church member. I asked on Old Order Mennonite recently if many of their young people leave. He said, not many; but they have a fair number of newly married couples that leave. I thought that was interesting. In this particular area I suspect many of those young couples are going over to Weaverland Conference Mennonites (Hornings).
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Hats Off » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:22 pm

We are currently seeing Old Order Mennonites coming to our plain car church; not just younger people but also grandparents. There really are no "consequences" for leaving a horse and buggy Mennonite church for other plain Anabaptist churches. We naturally prefer to see our children stay with "our" church but we do visit them and their churches if they leave us, just like our parents did when we left their church. However I don't think we really "lean" on them to convince them to stay.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Josh » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:15 pm

mike wrote:
Josh wrote:There are no consequences to never joining Amish church. The consequences are for joining as an adult and then leaving.

That makes it even more perplexing so many 18 to 20 year olds choose to join.

Incidentally, similar statistics hold forth in the CGC, Mennonite, with similar consequences for joining and leaving.


I think marriage has some effect - you can't marry if you're not a church member. I asked on Old Order Mennonite recently if many of their young people leave. He said, not many; but they have a fair number of newly married couples that leave. I thought that was interesting. In this particular area I suspect many of those young couples are going over to Weaverland Conference Mennonites (Hornings).


Of corse they can get married without joining the church. They can marry someone else who hasn't joined the church, and they can do so in a civil ceremony or at some church which is lax in being willing to marry virtually anybody.

Of course a non member can't expect to marry a committed member and get all the benefits of Amish marriage with none of the responsibilities and restrictions.
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Re: The Amish: American's Fastest Growing Church?

Postby Sudsy » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:45 pm

I found this regarding Amish shunning and the consequences - http://www.exploring-amish-country.com/ ... nning.html

Here is an excerpt -

But Amish shunning means that you will lose the support system to which you have grown accustomed. It means that you must now seek that support elsewhere.

You will find it hard to replace a social networking system that has flourished for centuries and a system on which you have relied for your entire life. As time passes and you have a hard time fitting into the outside world, you may find that your reasons for coming back might out-weigh your reasons for leaving.


I wonder how many actually do come back once they struggle to fit in away from the community.
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