I’ve been preaching to teenagers for about twelve years now. When I first started I was barely older than they were. In those good old days I could make a reference to something from my childhood and the kids would track with me. Now I just get blank stares when I try to use some of these:
- Michael Jordan and his tongue wagging. It’s sad. I know. But only one student in my current youth group has seen Michael play. Ever.
- Zack Morris and his oversized cell phone. That means that none of them know Kelly Kapowski or AC Slater. The glories of Saved by the Bell are lost on them.
- In West Philadelphia Born and Raised…These kids know Will Smith as an established actor that bathes with jellyfish, not as a the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
- Drinking Surge. They’ve got no frame of reference for this sweet-sugary-death bomb.
- The crazy adventure known as the Aggro Crag. Not only do they not remember GUTS but also Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and a host of other awesome game shows.
- O.J. Simpson. For them OJ is just orange juice. No memories of a Ford Bronco. No recollection of him in a Leslie Nielsen movie or on the sideline of NFL games.
- The deadly toy known as Pogo Balls. Trying to stay on a Pogo Ball without breaking your face or tearing your ACL is a discipline foreign to these kids.
- ALF. I can’t make any jokes about a lovable little alien that had an affinity for eating cats.
- The creepiness that was Pee-Wee Herman. They’ll never know the creep-show that was Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
- Pretending to smoke candy cigarettes or chewing tobacco in beef jerky cans or Big League Chew. Not that I want to teach our students how to smoke or chew—but I remember as a kid candy cigs that would actually puff when you blew on them. Now I don’t believe they even exist.
- Knowing where in the world Carmen San Diego was. Not to mention dying of dysentery playing Oregon Trail.
- Tying fabric around your forehead and practicing your crane kick. These kids have never been trained by Mr. Miyagi.
Thankfully some of these amazing thing are coming back. A few of our students know of Skeletor. This alone helps me sleep at night. I can only hope that eventually these other things make a comeback so I can be culturally relevant again. Because as it is—every year I’m getting less and less in touch with these teenagers.
Of course the Gospel is timeless and always relevant. They don’t need to know Teddy Ruxpin and I don’t need to be able to identify a Justin Bieber song (is he still cool?). But it sure would make my illustrations better if they knew about Trapper Keepers, and Scratch-N-Sniffs, and the Goonies.