Kevin Harris, president of Radical Mentoring, joins The Redeemed Man podcast. Radical Mentoring is a ministry facilitating group mentorship opportunities and helping individuals find the tools to lead groups.
Rather than being one-on-one and topic-driven, the organization’s group mentorship model, as envisioned by founder Regi Campbell, mirrors the conversations Jesus had with disciples and followers: open, freewheeling, sharing stories rather than giving lectures. “What we are saying is your qualifications to be a mentor are your life story, your life experiences, and your willingness to open your life up to younger men and tell them about some of the places you’ve been and the mistakes you’ve made,” explains Harris, who benefited from the group himself while dealing with depression and career-related stress. “Not just to have you teach us everything you know.”
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Welcome and Introduction
Hello and welcome to The Redeemed Man Podcast. I’m Paul Amos, founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed is an organization, a community of men that was built to help men overcome their difficulties and to celebrate the triumphs over those difficulties. We are joined today by a wonderful guest, a leader of Radical Mentoring, Kevin Harris. Kevin, welcome to the show.
Kevin: Hey Paul! Thanks for having me. Excited to be here with you.
Paul: Well, thank you very much. I know you’re out of Atlanta, and I know that can be crazy up there in the big city, so thank you for taking your time.
Kevin: As you know, I’ve also got a couple of teenage boys, so that adds an additional level of craziness to the already crazy Atlanta.
Paul: I certainly understand that. I’ve a 20-year-old, an 18-year-old, a 15-year-old, and a 10-year-old. And so I know how to chaotic it can be.
Let’s start the way I start with all of our guests and ask: What is redemption mean to you?
What does redemptions mean to you?
Kevin: I love that question. I think, to me, redemption means this, what I would say is kind of a return to wholeness. And what I mean by that is, I think it means, especially in the lives of men, what you and I are going to focus on today, it means that returning back to that place of confidence and comfort and who God is and who God made us to be. And I think no matter where circumstances take us, that idea of redemption is kind of that inner confidence that just helps, it helps anchor you in that simple truth that you’re not the sum total of your circumstances or your paycheck or your relationships that you’re really the sum of what God has spoken over you and what God says about you. To me, that’s sort of that idea of what redemption means, it means we’re turning us back to that, original definition of who we really are.
Paul: I like how you frame that. The original definition. That’s being brought back to something that was what we were is so different than what I think most men think of redemption. I think they think that they’re not going to be brought back to wholeness, and the idea that they’re going to be whole again is truly something that I want the men on this show to understand, and I appreciate you articulating your view on that.
Wrecked World: Beautiful Part of My Story
Paul: Let’s start, Kevin, if you don’t mind just telling us a little bit about you. You went through a major life change, and you went through a transition, that brought you from where you were in the business world to where you are today. If you wouldn’t mind sharing little bit about how you got there and what impact it’s had on your life.
Kevin: Yeah, I’ll take you back a little bit before. All those things happened, because as you know, often times our faith and our story is better understood looking backwards. So I’m going to rewind the tape all the way back to my high school days, which was… Not yesterday. That’s for sure.
And so I was a junior in high school and my dad died tragically and suddenly in a car accident. I say it now a little bit unemotional, because now it’s sort of become this beautiful part of my story that I can really hang on to.
But what happened to me then is I had a faith that sort of lived up here in my head. I sort of knew what I was supposed to believe. I knew why I was supposed to believe it, but when you’re emotionally immature and your world gets wrecked and turned over like mine did, you have a tendency to sort of drift towards this place of, I would call it unregulated maturity. And what I mean by that is I had this idea that I needed to be the “man of the house”. I was the only one at home with my mom at the time, and so what that forced me to do was to take on this role of trying to have it all together to kind of portray myself as in control. Not that dissimilar to what most of us men, myself included, even deal with today while trying to navigate just the ups and downs of being a high school and hormones and emotions and not being able to handle the position I was trying to put myself in of having it all together.
And so that crutch stuck with me from high school, through college, through my early days of my marriage in 2001. But through the grace of God, I was invited to be a part of a mentoring group that was going to be led by a guy named Regi Campbell. Now, I came from North Carolina, moved to Georgia after I graduated from college. I didn’t know Regi Campbell from Adam’s house cat, I just knew that I needed a mentor. And for me, this idea of being in a mentoring group was sort of the idea of networking, getting to know people, trying to sort of understand how to navigate the ups and downs of a new marriage, but more importantly a new business career.
And so when I met Regi, the first time was in his house in early 2002, was the first time I walked into his front door, I had no idea what I was going to experience. Regi was the first, what I would call authentic man of God I’d ever sat in front of, he wasn’t giving us a Sunday school version of who he was, he was willing just to kind of go, look, here’s the crap that my life looks like… And when you walk in the front door and you see the pictures on the mantle and you see a clean house, it looks really good on the outside, but what you can’t see is the mess of my life that really came when he put his business career ahead of his family. He would describe it as sacrificing his family on the altar of business.
Myself and a group of seven other guys got to really see and experience a rawness to Regi’s life and faith. That to me was totally transformative and incredibly attractive. So I journeyed with Regi through the year 2002, getting to know him both as a friend, I consider him my best friend in many ways, he sort of became a father figure to me, and for a guy that hadn’t had one in many years. Regi just became a trusted voice.
As I stepped into my business career, sort of fast-forwarding a little bit more for the audience, I did like most guys who do, I started in fast tracking in a couple of financial services companies. One day after signing the commission checks of the outside sales guys that I was or that were reporting to me, I quickly realized that I didn’t think they were all that much more talented yet through paychecks were multiple times greater than what mine was, and so I made what turns out to be a really poor decision to start to travel every week and take on the life of the outside sales person.
For most guys, I wasn’t that dissimilar. I was attracted to the money. I was attracted to the sky miles and the Marriott points. I thought I was doing right by my family, trying to kind of get ahead of some of the financial pressures. And what I ended up doing for me as I just crashed. I got a clinical depression diagnosis. We had a lot of marriage counselor sessions, and I just got to a place where I just was a shell of who God had designed me to be.
Regi was sort of a consistent voice and all of that, and so somewhere around eight or so years ago, Regi and I started talking about the idea of me joining him in Radical Mentoring. Helping him sort of decide what it would look like to try to get this model that I had experienced in the hands of more leaders in churches.
And so that’s what we started doing. About seven years ago, I joined him in today, I get to lead our organization as we really just try to get this Jesus-centered mentoring model into the hands of leaders and mentors and pastors all across the country and around the world who just have a desire to pour into the next generation of leaders coming up behind them. Sorry, long version of the story.
Avoiding The Spiral
Paul: Thank you for sharing all of that. First of all, I’m so sorry. For the loss of your father, I know that had to have a huge impact on your life. But second of all, I’d love it if you wouldn’t mind elaborating just a little bit more, because I think a lot of our audience really has hit that place of being the salesman, being on the road, leading to depression. What did you do other than your meetings with Regi to help pull you out of such a difficult time and what can be a spiral?
Kevin: I’d love to say that I have a great formula for that, but I didn’t really do much. I think for me, God saved me in many ways because my depression didn’t show up in really high temptation, it really showed up in me an absolute exhaustion.
And so for me, it was this idea of, you start your day at whatever time it is, you work through your day, if you’re done at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I would drive myself back to the hotel as quickly as I could eat something on the way that probably wasn’t great for me, and I would just get in bed and crash and I would sleep. Then I just wake up the next morning and sleep as long as I could that I just barely had enough time to make it to my first appointment on time.
God protected me in a lot of ways. I know with a lot of men that cycle pushes them into alcohol and improper relationships or idle minds inside a hotel room, as we know is really, really dangerous. So I just had some trusted voices. I had a faith that did anchor me, to some degree, oftentimes, it was just like a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Kevin, don’t.”.
It was the Holy Spirit, I think, really trying to protect me from some other things. But for me, it was really sort of what came to the crossroads was in our marriage counselor’s office, and she was the one that finally looked at me and my wife and kind of said, Hey Kevin, here’s the reality, you are about to lose everything that you stand for and everything that you care about. You’re going to lose your family, you’re going to lose your marriage, and at some point in your life, you’re going to be living in a one-bedroom apartment and someone else is going to be sleeping with your bride, you’re ex-bride at that point, and raising your kids. And she just kind of looked at me and said, I don’t think that’s what you want. I think you’re clinically depressed. I don’t think you’re the buzz word depressed that we can all sort of throw really casually out there to describe our emotional state. For her, it was like, you need to go get help.
And so that began a journey of antidepressants and probably a lot of stuff a lot of guys deal with it took my four pills this morning that I’ve done every year now for however many year now. I’m afraid to stop taking them in many ways.
To me that it was having someone who I trusted. It was a marriage counselor that had seen us through good and bad times, just say, Look, time out and you’re about to blow this thing. And that’s not at all what you want. You might think it’s easier to do it that way. For me, it was kind of that jarring thought of, gosh, somebody else is going to raise my boys? And someone else is going to be having sex with my wife? That’s not what I want to be sort of craft and blunt about it, that’s really what was the shock that got to my system.
Radical Mentoring Model
Paul: What a gift that your marriage counselor said that! I know it was a shock as you said, but that leads us kind of into having someone in your life that truly is unique. Maybe you can begin by talking about what does the Radical Mentoring model look like, and why is mentoring so important to a man in his development, especially in his path toward Christ?
Kevin: Beautiful question. I’d tell you this, the Radical Mentoring model requires no pre-requisite work. You don’t have to have a theology degree or understand Hebrew or Greek. What you really need to understand is one thing, you need to understand your story, you need to understand the redemption in your story, and you’d be willing to share that story and your life experience with people that are a generation behind you.
The power and that is really the idea that we want to create what I would describe as a track to run on or some framework, which is all found online, it’s called RadicalMentoring.com. And what we do there is we give you two things:
The rhythm is sharing stories, there’s monthly meetings. Our groups last for about a year, and at the end of that year, then you have a kind of a commencement service and ceremony, and then your mentor is charged to go ahead and lead another group and then send you, send you mentees out to go find another group of people, another group of men to lead. So it’s a generational gap is really important, and it’s a desire and a willingness to share your story.
So I think that’s the model for Radical Mentoring and you can find again, all of that on our website, RadicalMedtorning.com, and if you get on there and you want to pick up the phone and call me, you can call me my cell 770-710-7596. So that’s sort of the Radical Mentoring part of it.
I think what’s happening today culturally is you do see a generation of men that are now coming from broken homes, they’re lacking a father figure, and because of that you’ve got two dynamics happening, you’ve got a younger generation that wants to sit with someone who’s a little further ahead of them, I was a great example of that. Through my own life circumstances, the challenge I think we’re seeing oftentimes is getting the older generation, the older guy to recognize and see that desire and the younger generation, and we really want to help just bridge those conversations, bridge that generational gap through a group mentoring model.
Paul: So you mentioned broken homes, and I was curious whether you think that a rite of passage into manhood is something that’s missing for today’s youth.
Kevin: Totally. Yeah, I do think it is. I don’t know what the right solution is. I can always reflect back to my own story, and they were simple things, I didn’t know like, I’m the worst handyman in the world, not because my Dad died early, but I do think there are things that he probably was going to teach me that I was an age ready for that would probably have saved me from some mistakes and some extra money along the way. I also think there’s, in a more serious sense, there is a real desire for men to sort of move through the stages of life. John Eldridge talks about it. John Tyson talks a lot about it in the Primal Path.
I’ve got friends that run organizations called Christ in the Smokies. A guy names Tim Strickland here in Atlanta, and what you see what he’s doing is trying to put fathers and sons and positions where they can sort of have that right of passage oftentimes in a date much later than it should have been, or what he’s trying to do there is just create the environment where a dad can now retrospectively look and speak some things into the lives of the son that he didn’t have a chance to do it before.
So I do think there is a huge need for some of that right of passage, it doesn’t need to be as formal as knighting as they used to do in the old days. I don’t know, but I do think there’s a huge need for sons that need to hear some of those words from their dads, or a step-dad or a father figure, or a grandfather or whatever those gaps are. I just think in the absence of affirmation, and oftentimes that affirmation needs to come from a father figure in their life, men are going to go search for that affirmation somewhere. And we’re going to find it, or whether we like it or not, we’re going to find a way to be affirmed, and oftentimes it’s going to come from the wrong places.
Helping Men Find Their Purpose
Paul: Yeah, I can certainly speak to that affirmation coming from the wrong places. It can be a deadly spiral that moves people in the wrong direction. As we talk about the idea of a rite of passage, that leads to the next big question for me, which is purpose, and you talk a lot about helping men find their purpose. Specifically, their purpose, grounded in what God wants for them. Tell us how you go about doing that, and how do you help people really find out what they’re meant to be.
Kevin: So we went through this exercise, and we still go through this exercise in a Radical Mentoring group, where we want to help men define their life purpose. Which sounds a little bit obscure, and I’ll send you a document you can kind of attach to the show notes that helps begin that process. But I think ultimately, the biggest issue men have and identifying their purpose, and I was no different in this, was I was in the midst of an identity crisis.
So if I’m looking for my purpose and I’m trying to sort out my identity through paychecks and relationships or what the Atlanta Braves are doing, or what the Georgia Bulldogs are doing., I can’t quite get that right. And so my purpose will drift towards whatever those things are that I’m idolizing.
So, one of the things that I focus in on, and Radical Mentoring focuses a in on is, at the very beginning of our process is helping men get their identity right. If you can get a guy to see his identity is in Christ and in Christ alone, in Christ, 100% redemption of that man, and the idea that Christ 100% gave himself up for a guy, then men can start to see their purpose through that identity.
From there, then they can understand how it impacts, how the purpose impacts their strengths, how their strengths can be used in their marriages and their parenting and in the workplace. So purpose in my mind starts with identity, because if you don’t get that identity right, and purpose will sort of take on a life of its own, and we’ll probably push you toward those areas that where you’re getting your affirmation.
There’s a method to the madness of sorting through that purpose, and I’ll send you something that we use with men to help them sort of begin the early process of thinking about purpose.
Remove Distractions to Find Your Purpose
Paul: That’s great. I am sure our audience would love that. So it sounds like within this you’re giving an exercise to people to really get rid of the distractions and try to focus in on what’s important. So in a world where we have our cell phone next to us, in a world where we’re constantly thinking about updates, distractions, messages, how is it harder than ever to get people to pare down and say they’re going to move the distractions out of the way you define their purpose?
Kevin: Absolutely, I mean, it’s brutal. And you and I are sitting here having a conversation on our computers, and so if I hadn’t put my “do not to disturb” on, we’d be having this conversation with blings and notifications popping up all over the place. I It does take a really hard guard rails, I’ve got a really good friend who started an organization called ARO. And one of the things he’s doing is he’s created these beautiful boxes that you can put your phones in. Both you and your family to kind of gamify the idea of no screens. I think it does take some really hard, basic things like putting your phone in another room when you charge it at night. I’m guilty, I charge mine right next to my bed. You’ve got to really build some parameters around screen time and all those things that we think are there to protect our kids from distraction, but it’s no different for men or women, we’re going to be distracted by the exact same things.
You have to force yourself to find that you’ve got a forced ritual and routine in your life that really helps guide you towards centering yourself around God before you go to bed at night, and the first thing you do in the morning. Having him guide you throughout the day.
And technology is not all bad, you can set three or four alarms on your phone if you wanted to and have a quick reminder of, Hey, I need to pray for a minute around my next meeting or five minutes around what’s going on in the world, you can leverage technology for good and for God, but the problem is it’s the same technology that can be the distraction, and so it’s a hard, tough balance. I haven’t figured it out at all, but I do think it’s possible, but it’s a really big challenge for all of us.
Paul: Yeah, John Eldridge and the Wild at Heart team put out a great app, the one minute pause, that is all about trying to get us re-focused on God multiple times throughout the day. And it’s hard to do because it always seems to go off during something that the enemy wants to be more critical than what we’re doing in that moment, but it is a great discipline.
Kevin: Yeah, I’m not going to say the mistake, but we got a new puppy about two weeks ago, we’ve been without a dog for a couple of years, and my boys were antsy to get one. But just this morning that the puppy got me up early and so I went out on her little back porch deal, and while he was out running around, I did, I opened up a pause app and I’m working through his resilient tract, based on his new book, he’s got a morning and an evening, 30-day resilient pause kind of a deal. So I sat underneath the somewhat cloudy skies in Atlanta this morning doing the resilient conversation, so… I get it. Yeah, I love it, it’s a great gift that John’s put out there.
Surprising, Yet Critical Elements of Mentoring
Paul: Well, you’ve obviously spent the last part of your career focused on mentoring, and I would love for you to tell us any interesting insights that you have that may be counter to what people would think or expect that are really critical to mentoring.
Kevin: Yeah, we call our ministry Radical Mentoring, and so people often say, Well, you know what exactly makes it radical? I think here’s what I’d say is the most radical thing about it is, is all we’re doing, and this comes directly out of Regi Campbell’s book, Mentor Like Jesus (Regi passed away about two and a half years ago). But Mentor Like Jesus is an absolute gift because it’s Regi’s realization that all he was doing is he started to lead groups of men in 2001, what he realized is several years later, is he was doing what Jesus did.
Jesus was intentionally investing his time in a group of highly committed men. Another thing that’s radical about it, most people think mentoring are these kind of one-on-one relationships that are oftentimes a little bit awkward, they’re oftentimes based on a topic, and they’re really just driven by urgency of a relationship or a business issue. When Regi started doing this 20 years ago, he just was modeling what Jesus did, which was number one, it was a group, he wasn’t teaching us everything, he was facilitating conversations, he was modeling for us what it looked like to be a good husband or a good dad, he was using scripture is his guide, just like Jesus sort of always reference some of that Old Testament law.
But the group thing is really an interesting dynamic, because what happens in the group is it allows not only the mentor to speak into the lives of a mentee, but it also allows the other mentees to speak into the lives of each other. It takes this idea of urgency and topic to say, let’s be proactive all the different areas of your life, oftentimes areas where you aren’t expecting things to have challenges, and let’s just be willing to share our stories with each other, and let’s open up our lives and our homes to younger guys, tell them about the places we’ve been the mistakes we made. And just facilitate conversations.
And so what we’ve tried to do is structure our content and flow around the inner man first, so we really want to get clear on issues of grace, theology, prayer, identity… All those kind of core things. We just know men have got to get right, and then if we can get understanding of those areas, then we do what we call this outward turn. And we start to have conversations about what are those inner issues, how do they relate to our marriages or our workplace, or our friendships, or our parenting. So we do this inner man to outer man transition during the flow of that group, and just really get to have conversations that are happening where life is driving, we’re looking at life, our current life through the filter of that topic. So it just allows us to have real life conversations as we’re living life, not in a Sunday school environment where we’re just teaching, we’re really trying just to facilitate those conversations. And so I think that’s really the counterintuitive piece of what we’re sort of pushing out there as the ideal mentoring model.
Paul: Well, it’s so wonderful. You talk about small groups. When I originally launched The Redeemed in March of 2020, a week before COVID hit, our original vision was to have small groups of men who can do much of what you’re talking about with a mentor leading the group. We have just launched, I’m proud to say, both online and in-person groups for the first time, and so we’re moving in the right direction. It’s been a journey, but we brought on a wonderful leader in Nate Dewberry who I just did a podcast with, and also helping lead those groups and it’s been a great experience so far.
Kevin: Yeah! And I love it, and that’s what we tell churches and partners we work with is, I would never say our group mentoring model is the solution for everything. I would never say scrap everything else, don’t ever do another meeting, don’t ever do another online group, you’re only going to do these mentoring groups.
But to have mentoring is another step, I think is really important because men, as you and I know because we are men, we’re slow. So we’d rather show up in a group first, so we have a chance to kind of hide a little bit and get a sense of who’s there, what’s this group all about, and then we’ll maybe raise our hands and say, Alright, let’s take a step into a small group, and often times in the church space, the small groups are kind of lower commitment, they are a little bit more hospitality, and then we say… And then for those that want to raise their hand and go a little further, then you have another environment, and that’s where these mentoring groups really proved to be really valuable.
You’re asking for a high commitment. You’re asking for guys to really say, I’m going to meet our model is once a month for three hours, which is a very doable hurdle for most busy guys and busy family men. Once a month for three hours, you’re going to read a book, we’re going to give you some really practical assignments, you’re going to memorize scripture, you’re going to meet with your mentor and maybe another guy in the group over that month in between those meetings. But you want that mentoring model to be for that smaller group, you’re just getting the group a little bit small or they’re self-selecting to say, Hey, this group experience was really meaningful.
Now I want to go a step further into mentoring. I think it just gives you another place to go. And then the guys that have experienced that authentic leadership and the authentic community inside that mentoring space they don’t want to go back to sort of a lame shallow environment, so they’re going to push the small group space further along. We just want to be a piece of whatever is a church or a ministry, para ministry is doing.
So, if we can help you and Nate on the way, man, I love, I’d be honored to journey with you guys, because I love the work you’re doing. We’re all just trying to get messy in the lives of men. We want to force uncomfortable conversations, so we can push these men a little bit further along and get them closer to the place where they are so confident in who God made them to be that even when they drift, they recognize that God’s not far off.
It’s the prodigal son idea that whether you’re a 100 miles away or you’re a mile away or you’re a minute away, God’s right there with you, and the closer you can get a guy grounded in that purpose, the shorter distance it is for them to get back to where they are, who God called them to be.
Mentoring’s Effect On Personal Life
Paul: Brining it full circle, I understand you just operate in 22 years of marriage! What impact has mentoring had on your personal life?
Kevin: You know, it’s had probably the greatest impact in two ways. One, I get to spend a lot of time with men who were further down the road, who had marriages that I would ideally like my marriage to be like one day. So I get to sort of surround myself with guys who are in many ways where I want to be, whether it’s the kids they’ve raised or the way I see him, just kind of interacting with their wives further down the road. The other thing is, that if you mentor a group of men, it’s a great way to hold yourself accountable. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to be perfect, but you know that you’re going to be looked at by a group of younger guys who are going to go, What happened this month? Tell me what went right? What went wrong? And it just sort of keeps you sharp, it keeps you knowing that people are going to ask questions. Does, in many ways, keep you a little bit sharper probably than I would be on my own, and so it just has allowed me to learn from others and be able to know that others are looking to me not to be perfect, but again, to be willing to just sort of model for them what it looks like to get it right, get it wrong. Ask for forgiveness. Show gratitude.
Marriage, a Gary Thomas said, is a full-length mirror that you just can’t hide from. You’re going to look at your wife and she’s going to reflect right back to you how you’re doing. You can either run and hide form it or you can look at it and go Okay, I own it. Now, how can I re-shape the way that I’m going to treat her so that that full like mirrors reflecting back to me what God has called me to be as a husband and father.
Thank You and Closing
Paul: Well, that’s awesome. Well, Kevin, thanks for taking so much time out of your busy schedule to come and sit with us this morning. We all have learned a lot and we appreciate what you do from a radical mentoring perspective.
To our audience, I just want to say thank you for spending time with us today. For those of you who are not yet on our email list or following us on social media, please continue to go to the website and do so, TheRedeemed.com We thank you all for your time. God bless in God’s speed.