Real Estate as Ministry?

Invited into sacred spaces of transition


This is the 3rd installment of Faith+Lead’s Faith in Daily Life series in which we explore the varieties of vocation, and tell untold stories of resilience and deep faith lived out in the world. This time we have an interview with Brent Johnson, a realtor in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN).

Faith+Lead (F+L): How/why did you decide to go into real estate? 

Brent Johnson: My dad was a realtor, so I was 100% committed NOT to go into real estate.  But after a few years in youth ministry, I needed a short break before starting seminary. My dad invited me to work at his company for a while … 31 years later I still haven’t quite made it to seminary.

What I discovered was that many of the gifts God equipped me with are useful for counseling people through the stressful home-buying and selling experience. When I asked one of my best friends if he thought I was suited to ministry like he was, he shared with me that I am best when in intense short-term interactions and then able to move into more of a “maintenance” mode of relationship, which is similar to the real estate transaction situation, the intense process that starts from the first meeting through showing the clients homes or listing their home, writing the purchase agreement, having inspections, and getting to the closing table. Moving into maintenance mode after the closing. Where there is less constant contact, but, ideally, monthly or quarterly contact of some sort, and still being available to answer questions or help out in certain situations.

F+L: What do you think caused your friend to see this specific gift in you?

He had seen me in a variety of different settings, from working at a Bible camp, campus ministry, through a traveling ministry team, and then finally as a full-time director of youth ministries. He knew me well enough to recognize that the times I was the most effective and probably the happiest were the times where I could have a short term but intense relationship with people.

So he saw me in traditional ministry, but recognized that I had some gifts that might have led me to a different full-time option. Within the ministry realm it might’ve been outdoor ministries, hospice, or maybe interim work. 

F+L: Could you walk me through an average day of work?

Johnson: Every day is different. Sometimes I start at 7 o’clock in the morning and end at 10 o’clock at night. Other times I will start at 9 o’clock, work until noon, take some time off to meet with people or run errands for my family, maybe even go on a field trip with my kids when they were younger, then return to work during the evening to work with clients directly. Sometimes I work seven days a week, sometimes I work four days a week.

I spend 3-4 hours a day interacting with clients or potential clients through conversations, social media interactions, phone and email and writing notes, 2-3 hours in research for upcoming appointments, and 2-3 hours in active appointments.  Those appointments may be showing homes to clients or meeting with buyers or sellers to discuss the nuts and bolts of the transaction process.

F+L: Where do you see God in your work? 

Johnson: Though I need to be very careful to not violate federal fair housing law, I try to act with kindness and empathy as much as possible with both my clients and others I interact with.  Though my webpages and business social media pages are very “business” oriented, I write about my faith on a pretty regular basis on my personal social media pages. I feel like my job is to reflect Christ’s love into the world through my actions and attitude, and be ready and willing to talk about my faith if asked. Again, because of some federal laws, I need to be careful not to come across as discriminatory in any way, so I will work with anyone, regardless of their faith background or beliefs.  

F+L: How has your faith had an impact on your professional work and vice-versa? 

Johnson: Because many of my early clients were my friends, who were in various ministries, much of my business was built in the non-profit or faith-based communities. It definitely leads to different experiences within a transaction when your clients ask to pray with you. And because I tend to build my business through relationships, being a member of a church or faith community tends to bring people from those communities into my business community. It is also an amazing privilege to be invited into some of the sacred spaces I am invited into. To sometimes be one of the first people to find out about upcoming marriages, growing families, and exciting new jobs, or to be one of the first calls to help deal with death or divorce, is an amazing responsibility and honor. 

For example, in the past year I have lost two close and dear friends. I have helped their families navigate preparing those houses for sale, emptying them of the contents, and did my best to help them through the emotional experience of selling the house.

During that same time I have helped 4 young couples purchase their very first homes: places for them to “root” their lives together.  

I have helped families whose elders were starting down the path of dementia or Alzheimer’s, who were struggling to find a place for their parents to safely continue to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. In two cases, the parents had lived in their homes for over 50 years, in one case for nearly 65 years.

I’ve helped a family navigate divorce and prison, their whole world turned upside down.

Sacred spaces.

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