The Amish are one of the most closed-off and removed Christian denominations in the world. They don’t share much with outsiders, and the best way to get information is to either be Amish or ex-Amish.
This is why so many people want to know an answer to the question — “what is an Amish church?” This question (and its answer) is just one of many points of difference between the Amish and Mennonites.
On this page, we’ll define an Amish church and then lay out reasons why their “churches” are the way they are.
What Is an Amish Church? It’s Someone’s Home
Here’s the short answer — there is no such thing as an Amish church. Instead, the Amish attend church services at the homes of families in their communities.
The Amish are devoutly religious in their beliefs and their rituals. They attend the equivalent of church services one or more times per week.
But they don’t go to a dedicated church to conduct their services. Instead, they go to a family’s home, where they may have an outdoor service (if the weather is nice) or gather indoors in a living area.
Depending on the size of the community, this could amount to anywhere from a few dozen to 100+ people at a time.
As a result, the “church” in any Amish community most likely changes on a weekly or monthly basis, with the community gathering at different homes and farms throughout a localized area.
This area is heavily determined by the local geography and accessibility of different areas since the Amish travel by foot, scooter, or buggy (never a bicycle).
Amish who live in flatter areas — like the Midwest — will probably have an easier time traveling long distances than those who live on the East Coast and compete with hills and winding roads.
In other words, Amish living in hilly areas are going to have a harder time getting to someone else’s home because they’ll physically exhaust either themselves or their horses, their primary modes of transportation.
Exhausting yourself — especially when you only wear heavy black and white clothing — is an all-around bad idea, and exhausting your horses could kill them.
As a result, you may see more Amish homes hosting several buggies on their properties on a Sunday afternoon on the East Coast, especially in a place like Lancaster County. It’s just harder to get around.
But this also begs another question — why do the Amish have church services at their homes?
Why Do the Amish Have Church Services at Someone’s Home?
The main reason why Amish followers attend church services at the homes of community members is that it’s a show of modesty. There are also financial and priority considerations as well.
Here’s a breakdown of how these considerations work from the Amish perspective.
Reason 1. Modesty
Churches tend to be big, independently-financed properties that serve a purpose of being inhabited a few times per week, if you’re lucky.
For the Amish, the church would have to be somewhat out of the way in a rural area where, hopefully, members of that community could easily travel to attend services.
Aside from the fact that this would be a hassle in and of itself, the concept of creating a building where the Amish could solely worship is in direct opposition to their views on modesty and practicality.
A church, as a physical building, offers no additional benefits that couldn’t be achieved by having church at someone’s home. And after it’s built, who is the building really for — is it to worship, or is it to show everyone else how big the church can be?
This is the big reason why there aren’t Amish churches (and especially Amish mega-churches). It just doesn’t work with their understanding of being in the world, but not of the world.
They have nothing to prove to the rest of humanity, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t care to prove it anyway.
(At least in theory. Everyone has some pride. This is just the Amish way of thinking.)
Reason 2. Finances
On top of that, the Amish would have to finance the construction of the church. It’d cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Generally speaking, the Amish aren’t “filthy rich.” They have enormous farm properties and some may have homes that’d sell for more than $750,000, but that doesn’t mean they’re wealthy in the sense that Americans understand wealth.
Many of the large properties and well-constructed homes that the Amish have are the results of multi-generational bank loans that the Amish can acquire from local financial institutions that understand how Amish families operate.
So, for example, if an Amish person takes out a loan of $1 million, a national bank may insist that the loan be paid off in 30 years. For any Amish person, this would be absolutely unattainable while also starting a farm or some other enterprise.
That’s why some banks offer 100 year loans. They know that the family purchasing the property will almost certainly keep that home in their family indefinitely, meaning that the debt of the loan can be passed to next-of-kin once the head of the household passes away.
This guarantees a shockingly lucrative loan for a small, local bank while alleviating the stress of repaying the loan for the Amish family.
All of this is important to understand because it’s unlikely — perhaps impossible — that a bank would do the same thing for an Amish church.
An Amish family earns its living from its property in most cases. An Amish family can pay back a mortgage because the property will pay it for them.
But a church?
Not so much.
Reason 3. Priority
The final reason why you don’t see any Amish churches is simply priority.
The Amish have other things to do that require their cash. That includes providing for their families, paying off existing debt, and funding their community’s healthcare needs (among others).
That last item may sound a little strange. In a nutshell, many Amish communities have a form of universal healthcare because they don’t often purchase health insurance.
The thinking behind this is that God provides for all needs. Community members are provided by God, so community members can fund healthcare needs for each other.
Because healthcare is becoming significantly more expensive in the United States, continual funding of healthcare initiatives could be a significant portion of an Amish family’s income. This is especially true in communities that are shrinking because subsequent generations are leaving the faith.
Regardless of the reason, the Amish have bigger fish to fry than building churches.
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