One Year Later: How Amish Teens Decided

ABC News revisits four teens who were thinking of quitting the Amish community.

ByABC News
September 2, 2009, 1:26 PM

Sept. 4, 2009 — -- Adolescence is typically a time to experiment and test boundaries. But if you're an Amish teenager, you face a confounding choice between family or isolation, tradition or the modern world, faith or uncertainty.

Last summer "Primetime's" Jay Schadler told the story of four Amish teenagers in central Ohio who found themselves at a crossroads. Schadler had followed the teens for a year during the Amish rite of passage known as rumspringa.

This period of discovery, loosely translated in the Amish's Pennsylvania Dutch language as "running around," gives Amish teens the chance to explore the usually forbidden modern world before deciding whether they will forever commit themselves to the Amish way of life.

ABC News returned to Ohio this summer to see what paths the youths had chosen. Had they decided to return to Amish life? Or were they setting a different course, one that would lead them away from their families and community?

The Amish way of life means living according to a strict set of religious rules, with no electricity, no cars, no music and no education beyond the eighth grade. The Amish wear traditional clothes and stay away from the outside, or "English" world.

Baptized once as children and again as adults, the Amish believe that only adults can make informed decisions about their own salvation. The decision to join the Anabaptist Christian Church means they consciously take on the responsibility of following the Ordnung -- the unwritten rules -- that have sustained the culture for several centuries.

The challenge is that if the outside temptations prove more powerful than the world they have always known, the teens will spend the rest of their lives severed from their families. It's a high-stakes choice between the enticement of freedom or returning to the faith and comfort of family and community life.