so the amish have a tradition called rumspringa. basically it’s a chance for the amish kids to experience life outside the amish world so that they know the difference between what the world offers as opposed to the amish life they live. with that knowledge, they then can make the informed decision on whether or not they want to become baptized and join the amish church as an adult. this is usually allowed for amish youth between the years of 15 and 20.
i was shocked when i picked up this book after reading about it on marko’s blog. i find two things pretty amazing.
the first thing is the ability of this conservative Christian group to allow their children to jump into all the things they have separated themselves from in the world through their unique form of faith. they may not like what the kids do with that freedom, but they allow it none the less. why? that’s the second thing that shocked me.
it’s the desire for the amish to have their children fully aware of the choice they are making when they get baptized into their faith. instead of just preaching and teaching their children about amish ways and then calling them to chose this drastic way of living like Christ, they want the kids to be able to contrast the amish life with what goes on in the world. that’s why they give them the freedom to go live amongst the “english” for a time to see the consequences of a life apart from God. pretty sophisticated i think.
in some ways, they are doing something important by not only having the contrast between their view of the Christian life vs. what the world has to offer, but also wanting to have their children informed when the come to the decision point and the right of passage into the amish faith.
i’m just really afraid of what more would happen if we as mainline Christians just said to our kids, “these next few years we will let you go experience the world so you’ll know what the difference between that and the church is. then you can come back and all will be forgiven!” that’s frightening and intriguing all at the same time. they seem to already be doing a good job of finding he things the world wants them to taste and experience.
i know for myself in my ministry, i have not done a stellar job creating these right’s of passage and calling kids to make an informed decision about choosing Christ always. i don’t know if i would want to see the kids jumping out there into the world to “sow their wild oats” with my permission, but half the time that seems like what they are doing anyhow.
what this says to me is maybe i should be calling out the question to commitment to Christ with my students. calling them to more than what the world has to offer. talking about how fulfilling the lifestyle apart from the Christ and his church has been. this might be the thing we are missing by ending student ministry with high school. many don’t seem to be ready at 18 to fully embrace Christ and give up the world. maybe a post-high time frame is better for getting them to commit in earnest to livingCHRIST because they have known for a few years what pain comes from ignoring Christ and living their own way.
i’m about halfway through the book and it’s giving me some great things to think about. if you want to borrow it, it’s a great read, so just let me know. but you have to promise to talk about it with me when you’re done!