Old Order Amish - This order has made the most changes in recent years. In many ways they are more advanced than the New Order Amish. They allow their members to drive electric bikes and this has opened up their world in ways the outside world can't imagine. They can zip up and down hills with little effort. They can travel close to 20 miles one way before they have to charge their batteries. Young mothers can pull a little cart and take a couple children with them to mom's house without having to hitch up the horse.
The Old Order Amish are the largest group in Ohio's Amish community. More and more this group is saying they believe in being born again and in the Holy Trinity. This group has the greatest variety of what they believe in and what they can and cannot do. There are many sects of Amish who consider themselves to be Old Order Amish, but you have to understand which district they belong to, to know what they can and cannot do. Some of the Old Order Amish have cell phones, even smart phones, other's barely allow their members a phone shanty on their property. One thing for sure is you can never make a blanket statement about this order of Amish and say, "All of them do so and so."
Along with everything else, the Old Order Amish dating practices vary greatly from one district to the next. Even within a district it can differ. A movement started within the Old Order Amish a number of years back, maybe 25 years ago or so. These folks wanted something different and better for their children and so they started up a more structured environment for their youth. Scheduling volley ball, potato planting, singings, and the like so the youth had something to do. They also expect their youth not to practice bed courtship which was the predominant way for youth to date until this group formed a new way of dating practices.
There are still Old Order Amish youth who practice bed courtship, but many of them no longer do. The Old Order Amish youth who do not attend the new, more structured youth activities are more apt to drive cars and wear English clothes. Even the young girls get driver's licenses and drive around town. If we are out and about we can always tell which ones are the Amish youth, even if they are dressed in English clothes. It's hard to explain how we know, but I guess it is how they carry themselves. If you come from the Amish you can just pick them out.
Many of the Old Order Amish also wire their houses when they build new homes these days. Solar power is so heavily used that it is now acceptable to have lights and appliances run off of their solar power. They spend a ton of money on this, but it is allowed and so much more convenient and they don't mind paying the price for a better way of life. Again, this is for some of the Old Order, it depends on their district and what is allowed where they attend church. Many of them allow their pictures to be taken. Some even own cameras.
This order of Amish generally will shun their people for leaving the Amish but once the person leaving has established themselves in a different church and some time has passed they often lift the shunning and things go back to normal. There are still some districts of the Old Order Amish who shun for life, but very few. It is usually the older the bishop, the more devout he is to the old way of thinking.
Many families who have shunned family members don't recognize the shunning, they kind of sidestep the church's orders and still eat with their family and friends. Things have relaxed a lot over the past twenty years or so with shunning for this order.
The Swartzentruber Amish - The strictest of orders. They still do life as they did it in the 1800's. No bathrooms, no running water, no gas lights, no solar power, no modern conveniences. They make very few exceptions for anything. Their buggies can't be closed up like the other order's buggies can be. They don't have tractors for transportation or even to help with farm work. If they need power they have some ancient kind of power rigged up to power their threshing machines and such.
They don't have buggy lights, but hang dim oil lanterns on the side of the buggy. If the lights are lopsided on their buggy, one lantern hanging higher than the other you know you are seeing a true Swartzentruber Order buggy. There is another, smaller sect who also uses oil lanterns, but they are allowed to have them placed evenly on their buggy. The Swartzentruber order tries hard not to be like any of the other orders. If someone does it this way, then they do it that way.
The Swartzentruber Amish youth are probably some of the most "uncivilized" out there. Once they are a certain age, 16, usually they do things behind their parent's backs. There is a lot of drinking and debauchery. At the moment a certain section of them are so wild that neighbors are afraid of them. They run their horse ragged, piling the buggies full of boys or girls and making the horse run up and down hills. It is tough to be on the outside looking in.
This group is absolutely depraved spiritually speaking. It is interesting how the authors of Amish fiction often will have their families living like the Swartzentruber Amish, but their spiritual life more of a New Order Amish. Confusing, but it happens because they do not understand the Amish. This order absolutely shuns for life. If you leave their church, you are shunned until you come back. This order doesn't pose for pictures, but some of them actually don't really mind if you take their pictures while others absolutely hate it.