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What happens when young people are unleashed?

One of the workshops at Summer Madness. Photo: Jane Moad

Over the weekend of 18-21 January, 160 teenagers and youth leaders hit the streets of the Sunshine Coast, performing Timely Acts of Generosity (TAG) – and they are not finished yet, reports Jane Moad.

Attendees at the Queensland Uniting Church youth event, Summer Madness, spent an afternoon bringing a smile to people's faces, only asking for one thing in return: that the recipient responded with a good deed for someone else.

Trolleys were unpacked, flowers given, iceblocks shared and words of encouragement spoken with shoppers, employees, parents, skateboarders, passers by and picnickers, all in the name of "being love" and transforming communities.

The campaign, TAG You're It is an initiative of Summer Madness guest speaker Az Hamilton, who took attendees on a journey over the four days to understand that Jesus loves them, that they can be changed, and that they can then "be love" to others.

"This weekend has been an answer to prayer," said Hamilton.

"Talking to so many young people over the weekend, they've said 'I know that Jesus loves me', and that's awesome.

"But it's important we remember that in our everyday lives.

"We can have these amazing highs at camp and then go back to school and forget the experience." Bible study leader Rev Harlee Cooper agreed, telling his group of Year 12 and older, "It's not easy to be changed.

"It's a daily decision that can cost us a lot."

Throughout the weekend, young people from Cape York, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Robina, Beenleigh, Logan and congregations across Brisbane had plenty of memorable experiences.

From spiritual electives through to Saturday's wild and messy "Unreality challenge", they were challenged about what it means to be unleashed.

"Being unleashed is about letting go of the things that hold you back — when you understand what it means to be loved, and how to find and show love, you can spread love so much more," said Peter from Karana Downs.

"Sometimes people can underestimate the spiritual knowledge of the younger generation."

Harry, also from Karana Downs, agreed.

"Young people come up with amazing concepts and ways of explaining things.

"Older generations can continually learn from younger ones with old ideas being recycled in amazing new ways."

Spiritual electives explored these perspectives, asking questions such as "would you deny your faith if persecuted", "how do you view actions in war", "could you survive in the bush", "what's it like to be an asylum seeker", "how do television and faith connect" and "how can we connect to God through prayer".

Attendees were challenged to discover the truth about being an asylum seeker in Australia.

Katie Lewis and Sue Hutchinson Uniting Communications Research Officers introduced the topic and one man shared his story as an asylum seeker from Iran.

"He challenged us all to unleash the truth about asylum seekers in our daily lives," said one participant.

"The story about his journey and the difficulties experienced in his life as an asylum seeker in Brisbane moved everybody."

The answers weren't always clear, but the message sent home was. TAG – You're It.

Will you pass it on?

What would the church look like if you were in charge?

"I would make the church big again. Spread the word of God. I'd go and pick them up myself. Put the word out and let them know what's happening" said Joya, Weipa.

"I would have bean bags instead of chairs" said Kirsty, Hervey Bay.

"I would have more community-based stuff , and go out into the community more" said Matt, Hervey Bay.

"I'd organise a barbecue to get people together for church" said Samantha, Cape York.

"Every Sunday, all different churches would come together" said Taniesha, Weipa.

Photo : One of the workshops at Summer Madness. Photo: Jane Moad