Multilevel marketing isn’t a hobby. And its workers need discipleship.
When LuLaRoe leggings showed up in my small community a few years ago, a farmer in our church dubbed them “tight britches.” Colorful and comfortable, the style quickly became de rigueur for women and girls in our area. But the trend took off for a much simpler reason too: network marketing.
Sometimes known as direct or multilevel marketing, network marketing leverages established social circles to sell directly to consumers through local representatives. Companies like LuLaRoe do particularly well in communities that have thick relational networks, which is likely why they flourish in churches, homeschooling co-ops, and mommy groups.
But despite its growing presence (and generating over $40 billion annually), network marketing rarely shows up in evangelical theologies of faith and work. We might address the toll it takes on relationships, how it affects women’s formation, or whether it makes good financial sense, but few of our conversations take multilevel marketing sales seriously as work. And if we don’t, we won’t take the motives, questions, and dilemmas of those involved in this work seriously either.
This was especially clear to me as I viewed the recent Amazon documentary LuLaRich, which chronicles the woes of the aforementioned apparel company. Following a meteoric rise, LuLaRoe became the object of a spate of lawsuits, claiming damages for everything from poorly crafted merchandise to an incentive program that looked a lot like a pyramid scheme. Independent representatives were left with mounting debt, and some even found their relationships and marriages—the very things that had propelled them into the work in the first place—collapsing.
While watching the docuseries, …