Debra Green OBE was planting churches, preaching and pioneering social action work when few female leaders were moving in those spaces. Ahead of Mother’s Day, she’s joined by son, Josh Green, who leads youth ministry for 24-7 Prayer, to discuss prodigal sons, working in ministry and what happened when the police arrived on their doorstep

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Josh: I knew from my upbringing that when times were tough, Jesus was somebody you could turn to. My mum and dad would pray for me every night before bed. As a parent myself now, it can seem like it’s not really making an impact, but consistent faith is extremely important. Those little seeds grew in my heart. I always knew my parents loved me and were supportive of me. That‘s important.

Both my parents were involved in leading a local church. My dad always championed my mum in her ministry, so speaking up for women in leadership was something I grew up with. I got to see the good, the bad and the ugly of that. I remember somebody calling our house, shouting abuse down the phone because my mum was preaching. But even that my mum and dad handled with grace, rather than aggression. 

The devil came straight at me and said: “You think you’re a Christian leader? You can’t even look after your own son”

Christian ministry was brand new for both my parents. They were genuinely trying to work it out. There was stuff that didn’t go so well, but I saw their heart. We went to Spring Harvest every year as a family. I know now, as a dad with young kids who also speaks a lot, it’s a sacrifice. You’re in ministry mode and in family mode, but my parents helped me to see that the line should be blurred. If you can’t do work or ministry because of family, something’s going wrong. And if you can’t do family because of work and ministry, something’s also going wrong. 

Debra: I became a Christian in 1980, the same year I got married. We quickly went into ministry and started having children. Everything happened at once. We had no blueprint, no role model, no plan. It was a bit of a balancing act and we did our best.

I always say to parents who are feeling guilty (and all parents feel guilty at some point): the things that you’re giving your time to – leading in church or business or whatever your calling is – your kids benefit from that and lose from it. They might lose some of your time, but they benefit from watching you develop as a leader, pioneer a new thing, do something incredible with God’s help. 

Family life was quite chaotic. I don’t think we did a perfect job. Sometimes there was just too much to do, but I had this strong calling from the Lord, and he was not blind to the fact that I was a mother of four kids; he knows and he helps you navigate that. 

At Spring Harvest one year, I was speaking on the main stage and [my husband] Frank and I had this terrible argument. I was feeling like the last person who should be preaching. All of a sudden, a steward hands me a note from Frank saying: “For better or for worse.” I started crying, and I just thought: Yeah, that is exactly what it is like for every single couple. It’s just being real, bringing your failings before the Lord, asking for forgiveness and letting the Lord direct you. 

Josh: I once heard somebody say: “If you’re disillusioned, you need to ask yourself what illusions you were under in the first place.” The illusions that fall apart are that Christians are perfect, that God is looking for strong people – we all know he’s looking for weak, broken people. 

My parents modelled authenticity; you would see the argument and the make-up. They didn’t try to hide when things went wrong. It would have been really easy, in that moment, to put on a big smile, like: I’ve got no problems in my life, I’m the anointed minister, I’m going to bring the message. That’s not helping anybody. It’s just perpetuating this version of perfection that doesn’t exist. My parents modelled to me: We are not perfect, and that’s all right. But they also didn’t lower the bar so that there was no call to holiness. 

My parents gave me a choice whether to go to church. My sisters didn’t get that choice, but my parents felt that didn’t work. It must have been hard for them, because my brother and I had wild up and down years. At the moment, my wife and I have said: “No, we’re not giving our kids a choice.” So there’s stuff that we’ve done differently, and my mum and dad have had grace for us in that. 

If you have a child away from the Lord right now, as a mother, I’d say: “Keep praying. God hasn’t finished.

Debra: Josh was in church until the age of about 14. I think it’s really important to bring your children to church when they’re small, and you hope they make that decision for themselves. He fell in with the wrong crowd and suddenly seemed to have a personality change. He’d always been warm, outgoing and kind but he suddenly became quite surly. He didn’t want to talk to us or go to church. He was spending a lot of time out with friends, drinking and that kind of thing. 

One day, the police came to our house to arrest Josh. I’d just been speaking at a Christian conference, telling people about the power of prayer and my lovely family. With ROC [Redeeming Our Communities], I work with the police to reduce antisocial behaviour and crime. So it’s like the devil just came straight at me and said: “You think you’re reducing crime? You think you’re a Christian leader? You’re rubbish. You can’t even look after your own son.” 

His sister Sarah came round and said: “Mum, why aren’t you praying?” I didn’t feel like praying; I felt really low about the whole situation, like: Why is God letting this happen to us? But we started worshipping, and I thought about all the prophetic words we’d had for Josh. I knew he was going to be an evangelist; that was what I had in my heart. 

He was in the police station for the whole weekend. When he came home on Monday, he threw himself down in the hall and said: “Mum, please forgive me.” He said: “While I was in the police station, I got on my knees and said: ‘Lord, will you give me another chance?’ God just filled the cell with his presence.” Then he said: “Thank you for coming to sing outside. I could hear you and another voice singing worship songs, and it brought me comfort.” I realised that, from five miles away, Josh had heard us worshipping at home in the spirit realm. 

That’s one of the most incredible miracles. As parents, you can’t be with your children 24/7, but God is. If anyone has a child away from the Lord right now, as a mother, I’d say: “Keep praying. God hasn’t finished. It might look really bad, but God is still at work.” 

Josh: I was around a group that weren’t exactly the best, but there was stuff in me that wasn’t great, either. I always had a real enthusiasm for life, and that can be corrupted sometimes, especially for young people; they want to try everything. 

The Bible talks about the seed falling on good soil [Matthew 13:8,23]. That’s why it’s important to keep instilling Christian values, praying, bringing them Bible verses, because you don’t know what you’re doing to the soil of your child’s heart, even if they’re resistant to the gospel. 

My parents brought me up to pray when everything’s going wrong, so in that police station, when I’m desperate and broken, God’s all I’ve got left. The clincher for me was when I realised Mum wasn’t actually at the police station singing. I said: “But you were there. I heard you sing ‘Eagle’s wings.’” Mum told me they sang that exact song! I thought: Now I’ve got to become a Christian, otherwise I’m going to spend the rest of my life lying to myself, because this thing is real.

Debra: It’s really lovely to hear you talk like that, because for me, as a mother, I feel like you came back to who you really were in Christ. You probably don’t remember certain things, but from a parent’s viewpoint, I remember how kind and generous you were. You were a scallywag – you’d set the fire alarm off at church and stuff like that – but I think this says a lot about calling out the truth at times of crisis. 

Josh: Something that my mum said reminded me of the prodigal son story. The son is really far away, and the Bible says that “he came to his senses” [Luke 15:17]. When Jesus impacts our life, we come to the fullness of who God made us to be. The kindness that I had as a child, some of that heart for God, started to get fully awakened. That’s why it is so important to call out the good in our kids. My parents cultivated the kindness of God so well in the home. 

Debra: The bottom line is that you have to know you’re loved. Love includes discipline and correction but if you don’t know you’re loved, there are terrible problems. 

Josh: When mum recently had a brain aneurysm – really severe, life-threatening – we were on our knees. I remember thinking: This is a spiritual attack. I definitely do not say that about all sicknesses but I was very clear, so I prayed and asked God: “What’s behind this?”

I had a picture of mum prophesying at church about people in Manchester finding new buildings for their churches. For a long time, that has been a real stronghold in Manchester. And Mum prayed: “We’re breaking off that spirit. We’re not accepting it. This city is going to be open to Christians having buildings.” 

Two weeks later, she’s recovering in hospital and I start telling her about [my picture]. She says: “You have no idea how this happened, do you?” She explains that she was talking to a church leader who was just about to plant a church in Manchester, about the fact that we’d been praying for them to find a building. And while she was speaking to him, she felt like something hit her. She had to sit down, and she was rushed to hospital with this brain aneurysm. 

It was one of those beautiful, bittersweet moments. I realised that when I was at my worst, my mum prayed for me. Now, here I am today, contending for her.  

Debra: Two-thirds of people who have what I had die in the first month, and one-third usually have serious paralysis and memory loss. I just give glory to God that he’s brought me through this. 

When I came round, ‘Waymaker’ was playing on the hospital radio. I thought I was hearing things or it was on my phone. It had never happened before! It turned out that a Christian who worked there requested it. I knew God was saying to me: “Even when you don’t see it, I’m working.” He’s doing a miracle. It’s about a bigger thing. 

We’ve been through spiritual warfare as a family a number of times now. This is how you learn, isn’t it? By putting your faith to use when you face crisis. Whether it’s to do with health, family, finance or buildings, it’s the same thing. God is in control. God is going to win this battle.  

Debra Green OBE is a speaker, author and founder of Redeeming Our Communities (ROC), a national charity that aims to transform Britain from the grassroots up. She will be speaking at next month’s Spring Harvest (Minehead). Book tickets at

Josh Green is youth director for 24-7 Prayer and Wildfires Youth. He has led evangelistic mission bands and preached the gospel to thousands of young people around the world.

Debra and Josh’s conversation will be broadcast in full on Premier Christian Radio at 8pm on Saturday 9 March. You can also hear it on The Profile podcast