Amish Church Service
I grew up in an Amish home and attended Amish church services every week until I was twenty-two years old.
So I am quite familiar with all the ins and outs of an Amish church. Although, I will be quick to tell you that not all Amish church services are the same.
There's a big difference in Amish groups, so there are also differences in how they do things. Although most of their services are probably at least somewhat similar.
Amish Have Church Every Two Weeks
The Amish only have church every other Sunday.
I grew up in the New Order church, and we had services every Sunday. We had church every other week, but then we had Sunday School in the in-between weeks.
But the Old Order Amish stay at home, visit friends, or visit a neighboring church on the Sunday in between.
No Church Building
The Amish (except for a couple of New Order districts) do not have a church building. Their church services are usually held in their home or their shop (wherever they have room to seat everyone).
Many of them build their houses with removable doors instead of walls between rooms on the main floor. That way they can take the doors out and open up the joining rooms, giving them a large space to seat everyone in their church.
They take turns hosting church. And there are typically about twenty-five families in one church district (although it varies some), making it come around to each home approximately once a year.
With lots of church growth, they have to divide their church when it gets too big to fit into their homes. So some of the members split off and start a new district.
Lots of Work to Get Ready for Church
It was always a big deal to have church at our house. And it took lots of work to get ready.
When I was a little kid, it was quite exciting to host church. But when I got older it wasn't as much fun anymore because it was too much work.
Typically, we started getting ready weeks ahead of time because everything had to be perfect.
We cleaned up the barn, making sure all the corners were cleaned out and swept, the windows washed, etc. The grass all around the farm was neatly trimmed.
And, of course, the house was cleaned from top to bottom. We had to move most of the furniture out of the main floor, to put in the benches. And sometimes we were packed in, using every inch of space.
And beings we had services every Sunday, we hosted two weeks in a row. So our house was pretty torn up for the week in between.
But one advantage to having church at our place was that our farm got a good cleanup at least once a year.
What is an Amish Church Service Like?
Everyone goes to church with their horse and buggy (unless it's close enough to walk). Upon arriving, the horses have to be unhitched and tied up (the hosts are usually available to help).
The men gather in the barn and the ladies in the house. Oftentimes, the older folk arrive early. They greet one another and then file in to be seated by age.
We younger folk typically didn't arrive until it was almost time for the service to begin. The girls gathered in the laundry room or a side room somewhere. And it was expected that we would go around the circle and greet everyone in the room with a holy kiss (this was a handshake and a peck on the cheek in our group).
A few minutes before the service began, the youth boys filed in by age and sat where they were assigned by the host. And then the girls filed in.
Men usually sit on one side of the room and women on the other. Sometimes we sat facing each other, but it usually just depended on the layout of the room/rooms we were in.
(Note: Everything is segregated in Amish circles - men and women don't mingle a lot.)
Some people had services in their garage or shed and could set it up like a normal church with two sides and an aisle in between. But in a home, it was often set up with men and women facing each other.
The youth typically sat in the front, so all eyes were on us as we filed in. (Hated it! Because it always felt like we were being inspected to see if we were dressed according to standards.)
In an Amish church, the singing is in German. We used The Ausbund (a German hymn book - affiliate link) and sang two slow songs, while the preachers filed out to have a little session by themselves. (This is also when they have instruction classes for baptismal candidates.)
The second song that we sang was the same one every single Sunday. (At the Sunday School service we sang it faster.) It's a praise song called "The Loblied". And even though I sang along every time, I had no idea what I was singing because we didn't know German very well.
We sang it very slowly and drawn out. And it was one of those things that I just had to get through every week. (I still can't listen to that song without feeling disgusted by it. lol)
When the ministers came back, one of them stood up to face the congregation and preached an opening message. (Note: The Old Order preachers preach in a very sing-song voice that practically puts one to sleep. Thankfully ours didn't.)
This was followed by prayer (everyone kneels). And then everyone stood while the deacon read the Scripture that was assigned to him for that day.
(I noticed that whenever we visited the Old Order church, some of the young men would go out for a smoke break awhile. And I heard one X-Amish guy say that a snack was passed around for the kids during this time, but I never saw that happen.)
Everyone is seated again and another one of the ministers has a longer sermon. This is followed by prayer again, and then the preacher asks several men to speak/give a short testimony about the message.
And the service closes with another song (maybe two, I can't even remember), after which the youth immediately file out.
The whole service lasts about three hours while everyone sits on hard backless benches. (The preachers, their wives, and a few older folks usually get chairs.) And everything is conducted in the German/PA Dutch language.
Amish Church Dinner
After church, the hosts always feed lunch to everyone.
The men made tables out of the benches we had sat on for church, while the women got the food out.
Then everyone sits around the tables to eat. (In Holmes County, Ohio they stand around the tables to eat. And I found that pretty weird the first time I was there.)
The men have one long table, the ladies another. And when they were finished, we set the tables again, and the young people had their turn.
In all the Amish churches I have ever visited, we had the same type of meal. But I've been told that some of the plainer Amish serve a giant pot of bean soup for their meal.
Church Dinner Menu
Sometimes we had cheese spread that was made by melting white American cheese. And that was the Best! I still love peanut butter and cheese spread piled thick on a bun! So yummy!
And we usually had pickles and pickled beets.
This may sound like a very strange meal. (My kids think it sounds disgusting. 🙂 ) But we loved it, and sometimes I still crave that peanut butter and cheese spread combination.
And surprisingly enough, most of our visitors seemed to love the food as well.
Then to finish off the meal, we usually had either pie or cookies.
Apple Schnitz Pie was the most common type of pie that was served for our church dinner, although I think this may be mostly a Lancaster County tradition.
The filling for these pies is similar to apple butter (some people make it using apple butter and apple sauce). And they are quite delicious!
Amish Church Cookies
If the host didn't feel like baking twenty-plus pies on Saturday morning, we had plates full of cookies instead of pies.
Close friends or neighbors of those who were hosting usually offered to bring bread or cookies for the meal. So this gave us a variety to choose from.
So as you can tell, we didn't have the most healthy meal for our Amish church dinner, but it was easy and filling.
After everyone had a turn to eat, we stayed to visit with each other for a while yet.
New Order Amish Sunday School
Since I grew up New Order Amish, I got to go to Sunday School every other week. And we gathered the same as we did on our church Sundays.
The service started with two German songs (sung in a regular fashion instead of slowly). One of the preachers had a short devotional, and then we split up into age groups for Sunday School classes.
Once a year, teachers were chosen by a church vote. It was mostly the men in the church, but women or youth girls usually taught the little kids.
The Sunday School service was shorter and not as traditional. So we always liked Sunday School services a lot better than our church services.
The hosts usually served a meal after Sunday School as well. But it wasn't for everyone. They typically invited only a few of their close friends, any visitors, and the youth group to stay. And they served a traditional, hot, home-cooked meal.
So, as you can imagine, it was a busy two weeks for the hosts. And we were always glad when our turn to host church was over again for another year.
If you have any questions regarding an Amish church service, leave them in the comments below.