A new study indicates that the Amish population is growing quickly (5% a year), particularly compared with many mainstream religious groups, which have seen attendance and participation fall off.
This may seem strange, since being Amish is a fairly restrictive lifestyle. The study suggests that large family size and high retention rate help the Amish community maintain its growth rate, but one wonders, what keeps the retention rate high? After all, it’s not as if the Amish are isolated from their technology-using, polyester-wearing kin.
One thing, incidentally, that may keep the Amish together is the fairly heterodox, locally-controlled way in which the religion is administered. When compared with, say, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism/Episcopalianism, or Mormonism, the Amish community is locally administered, because it is based on territory, not creed. This allows for a flexible code of rules, even though it may appear to outsiders to be quite strict. The nature of the organization makes it more nimble. It should be unsurprising that the religious groups in the US with the highest retention rate are Hindus and Jews, both of which have occasionally strict guidelines, but which also have a more loose central structure.