Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke to Premier Youth and Children’s Work about Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer movement taking place between Ascension and Pentecost, which he is inviting children and young people around the world to join.

Justin Welby


YCW: What is the vision behind Thy Kingdom Come?

Justin Welby: It’s not complicated - we’re simply asking people to pray, in whatever way they want and with whomever they want, for others to come to know Jesus. We’re asking people to join many tens of thousands of Christians around the world between Ascension and Pentecost. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples went to Jerusalem and prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The vision behind Thy Kingdom Come is to do just what these first Christians did - to pray, in faith, that the Holy Spirit would come and lead the way in witness and evangelism. We know the Spirit is always given when we ask (Luke 11:13).

YCW: What’s the relevance to children and young people, and how can they get involved?

JW: We need them to take part. This is something we’re doing as a whole Church. We only really do things as a whole Church when everyone who’s a member is involved. Practically speaking, there are some Thy Kingdom Come resources that have been specifically designed with children and young people in mind.

YCW: How can we begin to help children and young people tell their friends about Jesus?

JW: One of the wonderful and terrifying things is that our children and young people will do as they see us doing. If we are praying and seeking to tell friends about Jesus, so will they. If we’re not praying and not telling our friends about Jesus, they won’t, so first let’s make sure we’re modelling it ourselves! Secondly, encourage them to pray for opportunities to talk about what Jesus means to them. Thirdly, let them say how it is for them. Rather than learning rote answers to set questions, we want them to tell their friends in their own words about the difference that Jesus brings to their lives.

YCW: It can seem daunting to try and pray with children and young people. What are some easy ways to start?

JW: For me, almost a test of all of our spirituality is whether it translates to children. The opportunity and responsibility of teaching our children to pray is one of the most treasured we have as adults in the church. We need to take seriously the responsibility that the Church has to teach the faith - are we doing everything we can to help our children connect with God? It’s never a one-way thing. It is reciprocal. Are we alert to what children are going to teach us about God? Often it’s children who hear from God much more clearly than we do.

Look with children at a Bible story such as Zacchaeus. What did Jesus do? What made the difference to Zacchaeus? Who should be told about Jesus? Who did the crowd not want him to deal with? Make a list of things to pray for then pray simply and briefly. Say thank you; perhaps say the Lord’s Prayer if that’s the kind of thing they are used to. Then stop, and talk together for a few moments.

YCW: What do we say if their prayers don’t get answered?

JW: I don’t accept the premise of the question! We teach our children that God always, always listens to them and always, always hears their prayers. Prayer will always make a difference. If children ask questions, for example: “Why does malaria still exist when I’ve prayed to God that it will go away?”, we don’t fob them off with easy answers. We’re part of a community of faith where prayers aren’t always answered as we would want them to be, and we can be honest about that. If children ask us questions about why their prayers aren’t answered, we listen, we accept, we say we don’t always understand. But we know God always loves us, God always hears us, and it’s always right to ask him. Look at Psalm 42 and 43 for someone praying when God does not answer.

We’re not just investing in our future, we’re doing ministry with children and young people because of what they mean now, today

YCW: Often youth and children’s work can feel really tough. What would you say to encourage those involved?

JW: The calling to shape young lives around the ways of Jesus is one of the most challenging but also one of the most rewarding, stretching and joyful. We know absolutely that it is a calling close to the heart of God. God loves to shape these young lives around his life. I would encourage you to gather with others in your church and community who also have this ministry. Share struggles as well as good stories, and pray for each other, that you continue to receive the equipping of God.

YCW: Why does youth and children’s work matter?

JW: We don’t just do this because we’re forming the adults that we hope will one day be the ‘proper’ members of the church. There’s no question of children and young people being ‘disciples in waiting’. The Church gathers around Jesus, who gathered his disciples around a child. He put a child in the centre of the circle and said: “Whoever welcomes this child, welcomes me.” Let’s be clear - we’re not just investing in our future, we’re doing ministry with children and young people because of what they mean now, today, in this moment. What we do for our children and our young people is a litmus test for how we welcome Jesus. Let’s keep underlining what they give and what they receive as full members of the body of Christ. They are teaching us things that help us to be the Christians God calls us to be.

Here’s a taster of the Thy Kingdom Come resources, designed espeically for families, children and young people

Prayer ideas for families at home

For children and families: Extreme Prayer!

Find some ‘extreme’ places to pray and film yourselves doing it. You will need a smartphone or camera, appropriate clothing and software that lets you put the photos together as a film, such as Microsoft Moviemaker.

People in the Bible pray in all sorts of places. Find places near you and take a photo or shoot a clip of a member of your family saying a prayer in those places, then compile the shots into a film. You can use these ideas if you’d like:

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord” (Psalm 130:1).

  • What’s the deepest or lowest place you can find?
  • Prayer: Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, for [name].

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain”’ (Exodus 24:12).

  • What’s the highest place you can find?
  • Prayer: I pray that neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [name] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands” (2 Chronicles 6:12).

  • Where’s the busiest place you can find?
  • Prayer: I pray for the well-being of [name] and their family (Ezra 6:10).

“Hannah was praying in her heart” (1 Samuel 1:13).

  • What’s the most silent place you can find?
  • Prayer: Hear my prayer for [name] (Psalm 4:1).

“He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed” (1 Kings 19:4).

  • How many people can you fit under a bush to pray?
  • Prayer: Listen to my prayer for [name] (Psalm 55:1).


From the prayer journal for young people

I follow you Jesus

The clothes you wear today say something about the kind of things you want to associate yourself with. It’s the same for the music through your headphones, the phone in your pocket and the things you snap. Of course we all want to be unique. It is all about being authentic. But everyone follows other people.

A disciple follows Jesus. And actually it’s the only way we find out how to be uniquely us. It’s the only route to authenticity. How closely are you following him? Pray you would go his way today.

I praise you Jesus

Praise changes things. Not in a spooky way, but at least in this way. Think about a relationship you have which is full of criticism. What effect does it have on you? Of course it’s negative. It drains us, and makes us close down. But when someone gives us a word of praise - not flattery - the effect of that on us is brilliant. We open up. We feel more ourselves.

Praise for Jesus opens up space for him to come and meet us. Tell him what it is you want to praise him for. And open up the space for an encounter.

I give thanks

There’s always stuff to moan about. To complain about. To whinge about. And the more we do that, the less we see of the gifts that are all around us. When we take time for being grateful, we see it all differently.

Make a list of ten things you have to be thankful for. It shouldn’t be hard.

For full details about Thy Kingdom Come, including more resources specifically designed for use with children and young people, visit