Posted: 05/03/2024 | by Sarah

The Difference Between Amish and Mennonite

The Amish & Mennonite may look the same, but there are some notable differences!

a family rides in an Amish horse-drawn buggy through farmland on an Amish tour in Lancaster, PA

Many people are familiar with two of the prominent religious groups in Lancaster, PA- the Amish and the Mennonite, but do you know what makes them different? While they have many similarities and stem from the same branch of religion they are not the same. Read on and learn about these two groups and the unique qualities they contribute to the culture of Lancaster County.

Amish vs. Mennonite Similarities

Both groups actually stem from the same Christian movement during the European Protestant Reformation. These Christians were called Anabaptists and they sought to return to a simplicity of faith and practice based on the Bible. The Anabaptists also stressed the importance that belief must result in practice, and that idea still holds true today for both the Amish and Mennonite communities. Both Mennonites and Amish believe in charitable efforts.

Mennonite quilts and wooden furniture featured at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in PA

Amish vs. Mennonite Differences

The split between the two groups started with a gentleman named Jacob Amann who believed that sinning resulting in excommunication should result in a more serious punishment (now known as “shunning”) than what the Mennonite community currently followed. Amann’s beliefs attracted a large group of followers who came to be known as the Amish.

What is the difference between Amish and Mennonite beliefs today?

Today, the greatest differences between the Amish and Mennonites stem mainly from practices rather than beliefs. Amish groups tend to shy away from technology and involvement with the greater world, by dressing “plain” and using scooters and buggies for transportation. The Mennonites have embraced some of the world’s technologies. Unlike the Amish, Mennonites can use motorized vehicles as well as electricity and telephones in their homes.

Use of Cars, Electricity, and Modern Technology

When it comes to the use of cars, electricity, and modern technology, there is a stark contrast between the Amish and Mennonite communities. Mennonites have embraced many aspects of contemporary life, including the use of motorized vehicles, electricity in their homes, and cell phones. In contrast, the Amish generally avoid such technologies, preferring to live a more traditional, plain lifestyle. However, the acceptance of technology varies among Amish communities, with some being more restrictive than others.

Clothing

While most Mennonites dress in contemporary clothing styles, the Amish maintain a plain and simple dress code that has remained largely unchanged. Amish men typically wear plain suits with broad-brimmed hats, while women wear long dresses and bonnets.

Missionary Work & Proselytizing

Many Mennonites stress the importance of missionary work, helping to spread their faith to over fifty countries around the world, while the Amish tend to focus their efforts closer to home, sharing information about ministries, services, testimonies, and opportunities to Amish and non-Amish (English) communities alike.

Religious Gatherings

Mennonites typically hold worship in traditional church buildings. In contrast, the Amish practice their religious gatherings in a more decentralized manner, rotating religious gatherings among different households within their settlements.

Mind you, there is much more to the history and beliefs of the Mennonite and Amish than a couple of sentences and there are also exceptions to every rule. So, if you are in Lancaster and are curious to learn more about these two great cultures, stop by the Mennonite Life Visitors Center and take a tour of their life-sized Tabernacle Reproduction or enjoy one of their many informative movies and documentaries. Learn about Amish culture and schedule a buggy ride or tour of an Amish farm while you're visiting.

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Sarah