Skip to Content

What can Mennonite not do?

Mennonites are a religious group that emerged during the Protestant Reformation in the 1600s. They are known for their simple living, commitment to pacifism and social justice, separation from mainstream society, and refusal to take oaths or hold government office. However, there are some common misconceptions and stereotypes about what Mennonites can and cannot do. This article will explore the question “What can Mennonite not do?” and provide an overview of Mennonite beliefs and practices.

Technology and Modern Conveniences

One of the most prevalent stereotypes is that Mennonites reject all modern technology and conveniences. This is not entirely true, and technology usage varies by Mennonite group. Old Order Mennonites do limit their use of certain modern technologies like television and computers. However, many other Mennonite groups have adapted selective use of technologies that do not undermine their values. For example, many drive cars, use cell phones, access the internet, and use power tools or farm equipment. Overall, Mennonites are not entirely anti-technology, but they carefully consider how each technology could impact their community and values.

Electricity and Appliances

Most Mennonite groups do use electricity, appliances, and some modern conveniences in their homes. Old Order Mennonites are likely to limit use of electric appliances and televisions, but other groups use electricity, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, and similar appliances regularly. Mennonites appreciate and enjoy the conveniences that technology can provide when used thoughtfully and appropriately.

Cars and Driving

Many Mennonites do drive cars, with the exception of the most conservative Old Order groups. Mennonites may prefer plain and simple transportation choices over luxury vehicles, but cars provide an important way to access supplies, services, employment, and community interaction for rural living. Mennonites teach driving safety and caution as cars could encourage individualism or independence from the community. Overall, cars are accepted by many Mennonite groups in a prudent and practical way.

Internet Access

Internet usage varies greatly between Mennonite groups. Old Order groups avoid the internet entirely due to concerns about influences on their community. More progressive Mennonites may use internet selectively for information, business purposes, or staying connected with the broader church. Some operate websites to sell products or share their beliefs and way of life. Mennonites who use the internet do so cautiously, wary of inappropriate content or replacing face-to-face community interaction. Overall, some internet access is allowed in moderation by many Mennonite groups.

Clothing and Fashion

Another common misconception is that Mennonites always wear plain, old-fashioned clothing. This is mostly accurate for Old Order Mennonite groups who wear distinctive attire as an outward symbol of their faith and simplicity. However, more progressive Mennonite conferences permit contemporary clothing styles. They may still avoid extravagant clothing as a sign of modesty and conformity to Christ.

Women’s Head Coverings

Most Mennonite women do wear head coverings, especially in Old Order groups. This practice comes from Biblical references and shows submission, humility, and separation from the world. The style of covering can range from a small cap to large coverings and bonnets. Some progressive Mennonite women may opt to not cover their heads, but it remains a common tradition.

Plain Attire

Clothing is usually very conservative and plain for Old Order Mennonites. Women wear modest long dresses and aprons. Men wear dark trousers, suspenders, and formal shirts and vests. Clothing has little adornment, jewelry, or stylish details. Other Mennonite groups adapt their attire to more contemporary but modest fashions.

Uniforms and Safety Equipment

Mennonites do not object to wearing uniforms or safety equipment when required for a job or activity. For example, they have no issue wearing construction safety vests, protective goggles, or other practical gear needed for a specific role or task.

Entertainment and Arts

When it comes to entertainment and arts, Mennonites may enjoy these selectively but avoid content they deem inappropriate. Old Order groups tend to reject media like television, radio, films, video games, and popular music. Other Mennonite conferences are more open to moderate engagement with arts, entertainment, and hobbies in line with their values.

Television and Radio

Watching television or listening to typical radio programming is generally avoided by Old Order Mennonites but permitted in some moderation by less conservative groups. Access is limited due to concerns about violence, inappropriate language, and undermining Mennonite teachings.

Sports and Games

Most Mennonites encourage wholesome recreation and games that build community and character. Sports like soccer, volleyball, or softball and board games or puzzles are often enjoyed socially after church or during community gatherings. Excessively competitive or violent sports may be avoided.

Reading and Music

Reading approved books or periodicals and singing or listening to Christian or choral music is allowed and enjoyed by many Mennonites. Content is carefully screened, and access could be restricted by Old Order groups. But reading and music are seen as positive forms of entertainment.

Theater and Secular Music

Acting in plays, attending movies or concerts, or listening to popular secular music is generally avoided, especially by Old Order Mennonites. More progressive Mennonites may permit some selective exposure but avoid content at odds with their beliefs.

Food and Drink

Mennonites have few restrictions related to food and drink, other than upholding general Christian values of temperance and health. Certain lifestyle choices may influence food and beverage habits.

Fast Food and Eating Out

Eating fast food or at restaurants is not prohibited but less common with Old Order groups who prefer to eat food prepared at home. Mennonites eating out will seek a modest, family-style establishment over extravagant fine dining.


Drinking alcohol is widely prohibited or infrequently practiced among Mennonites, who prefer temperance and clear-minded living. Some may permit moderate social alcohol use, but drunkenness is forbidden.


There are no specific prohibitions on caffeine or coffee consumption by Mennonites. Individuals likely exhibit the same range of habits as general population.


Hunting and game meat may be avoided, especially by Old Order groups who oppose violence or killing. Other Mennonites may accept hunting for food provision purposes but not as sport.

Organic and Local Produce

Mennonites have a strong appreciation for creation and farming is a core part of culture. Many prefer to eat organic, homegrown, or locally-sourced produce when available to support health and community.

Vocations and Careers

Mennonites are able to pursue a variety of vocations and careers provided they align with core values of community, modest living, and non-violence. There are some limitations, especially for Old Order groups.

Government and Politics

Due to their historical persecution and pacifist beliefs, Mennonites traditionally avoid working in government, especially in roles concerned with law enforcement, the military, or policymaking. Very conservative groups may even refrain from voting.

Education and Academia

Education is valued, so Mennonites are found working in teaching, academics, administration, and other roles in schools. But they may limit engagement with secular universities. Old Order groups often educate children through eighth grade in private schools.

Business and Sales

Running small businesses, construction companies, shops, and farms are common vocations. Mennonites are also able to work in professional fields like accounting, finance, real estate, and more if practices align with values.

Medicine and Science

Mennonites have historically been early leaders in medicine focused on serving the community. Healthcare continues to be an acceptable profession. Field like agriculture, engineering, and technology may be pursued if used constructively.

Law and Justice System

Due to their pacifism and separation from government, most Mennonites avoid vocations in law, police, courts, prison systems, and law enforcement agencies.

Civic Responsibilities and Patriotism

Mennonites’ separation from state authority and non-violence shapes their approach to civic duties and patriotism compared to mainstream society.

Military and War

One of the clearest rules for Mennonites is they universally object to military service and participation in war. Their historic peace position prevents combatant or non-combatant roles.

Jury Duty and Oaths

Serving on juries or swearing legal oaths has traditionally been refused, though more progressive Mennonites may permit it. Some may provide alternative “affirmations” if required by law.

Voting and Campaigning

Voting and other political participation is traditionally low among Mennonites, especially Old Order groups who avoid government involvement. Some may vote selectively if conscience permits.

Patriotic Displays

Mennonites generally avoid patriotic displays like pledging allegiance to flags, singing national anthems, or celebrating national holidays due to allegiance to God over country.

Paying Taxes

Mennonites believe in being law-abiding citizens and will pay required taxes. Some may choose to redirect portions of taxes that fund violent or objectionable activities if allowed.

Church Activities and Rituals

Active participation in their Christian faith community is a core part of Mennonite identity and practice.

Worship Services

Attending worship services, whether in a church building or at home, is expected at least weekly for Mennonites. Preaching, hymn singing, scripture reading, and prayer are central.


Partaking in communion rituals affirming Christ’s sacrifice is important for Mennonites. Practices may differ on frequency or emblems used, but the meaning is sacred.


Infant baptism was previously common but now believer’s baptism by pouring, sprinkling or immersion is more dominant. Baptism marks church membership.


While outward evangelism is less emphasized than other Christian traditions, Mennonites seek to live out the gospel. Some do engage in missions or community outreach.


Mennonite funerals are simple, focused on hymns, preaching, prayer, and grieving together as a community. Graveside rituals may vary between conferences.

Family Life

Close family ties and community interdependence are very important within Mennonite culture and practice.


Marriage is valued as a lifelong covenant between spouses. Mennonites traditionally marry other members of the church but may now permit outside marriage with care. Divorce is discouraged.

Gender Roles

Conservative groups adhere to traditional gender roles – women as homemakers and men as providers. But many modern Mennonite women pursue education, careers, and more equal roles.


Large families and children are blessings from God to Mennonites. Parenting focuses on religious training, responsibility, and community attachment rather than individualism.

Family Planning

Old Order groups avoid any contraception, but other Mennonites may permit contraceptive use if not induced abortion. Family planning focuses on God’s providence more than conscious limitation.


Traditionally, married Mennonite women remained home, and men farmed or worked trades. Now, more wives obtain education and professional roles without compromising values.


In summary, while Mennonites do have some restrictions on use of modern technologies, interactions with government, expressions of patriotism, and other areas due to their religious convictions, they are not completely opposed to education, vocations, family life, ethical technology, arts, and other activities that align with values like modesty, community, and pacifism. There is diversity between different conferences and groups when interpreting separation from the world. But overall, Mennonites seek to find a balance between their spiritual ideals and participation in society.