MLM's in Churches - Should they be there?

I like Multi-Level Marketing, I just question it’s presence in churches.

Full Disclosure: I was an Advocare and ViSalus Distributor at the time of this posting.

Update 10/31/2014:  At the beginning of September, Adovcare admitted to me over the phone that they can and do charge stolen cards, knowingly, for membership fees, products, etc. That was reason enough for me to drop it.  I reported it to the people ‘above’ me but they did not reply or comment back on it. Their silence was telling.  It make me wonder how they truly made ‘diamond’ or whatever pins they got. They were church people and quieter than crickets. Advocare = Advoscare.

—– The original article from May 16, 2014.

I believe Network Marketing can work. I have no doubt there. I myself made ViSalus work for a period of time and am an Advocare Distributor. I also go to church.  I am not against church people being involved in MLM’s, Social or Network Marketing opportunities.

What I take issue with is how they move through churches and people’s behavior within churches that MLM’s run through. I take issue especially with recruitment in church or through relationships in church.  I’ve been a part of a church where World Ventures Travel, Visalus, and Advocare among others have gone through their cycles and left a trail of bodies in their wake.

The only opportunity I’ve been a part of that I think was handled right in a church setting was Ryan Wuerch’s Solavei. I don’t know if the philosophy is different, or Ryan’s personal involvement,  but or Ryan’s take on how he runs Solavei is different but somehow that specific MLM / Network Marketing / Social Marketing opportunity escaped the downfalls I’ve seen in my personal observations.

Having done some MLM’s in my church in Brentwood, TN  (some were FANTASTIC, some were not) as well as discussing business within the Church of Christ I can say this – I believe two things happen when congregants get involved in business opportunities: Somewhere their mind just turns OFF and they cease investigating, using common sense, vetting, etc to look closer if the opportunity is good for THEM. People borrow from retirement to start them, people go to all ends of the earth to cash in on the promises made. Again, everyone has a different risk tolerance but some do it for the wrong reasons.  I myself gambled my electric bill money on one.

That’s one strange phenomenon. If I go to to invest in a business opportunity  I”m going to research upsidedown and inside out, if I am going to buy a product I investigate upside down and inside out, and if I’m presented with a business opportunity it’ll take me WEEKS to decide, but somehow in the church people just assume all that isn’t necessary. A sub-thought on that is what Dave Ramsey does – he teaches and any provider he endorses has to provide services from a TEACHING perspective. You engage any of his providers and they TEACH. In the church when it comes to business opportunities a lot of it is character based = we base our decision on the PERSON not the product and when you grill someone they don’t teach, they comfort you and reassure you

That’s thought “A”. The other thought is that Christian business opportunities, investments, and MLM’s also foster community  or  mentorship that so many people of faith are desperately seeking.  MLM’s depend on bringing people in and ‘teaching’ something – and through that mentorship comes community – but is that the kind of community parishioners need? It creates an exclusive community like everyone doing Advocare together or ViSalus together (take a ‘challenge’ together, sound familiar? I’m starting a ‘challenge’ next week, who wants to join me?) . It’s hard to say “NO” which I have done SEVERAL times, esp if it’s a Pastor or leader. Some people do this stuff to engage in a false sense of friendship and community within the church.   You ask for ‘prayer’ in an area like ‘finance’ then are told about the ‘opportunity’.

I’ve had situations where a congregant is ‘too busy’ for fellowship or doesn’t talk to to me for 5 months BUT when I got an order in from their MLM on my downline – the phone rang! Multiple times. Texts. Calls.   I want to meet with them, do lunch, etc nothing. But a $1800 order on my MLM and boom the phone rings.  I think it’s double dangerous when a Pastor gets involved with an MLM  or Network Marketing opportunity – or anyone in a discipleship / mentorship role.   Interesningly enough the $1800 on my MLM was reversed. When I reached out to the MLM corporate office, they would not comment or respond.

I’ve heard too many times, “Come to this business opportunity meeting, among other things we’ll be able to spend time together” – too busy for true discipleship or fellowship but not MLM’ing – they’ve got time for that under the rationalization that they are ‘developing their business’. Is it their business that should be taking place where ‘kingdom business’ should take place?

Some people desperate for attention and community will buy into these things in the church – and it’s built on a faulty foundation – those are my thoughts over all.  Being in an MLM is like being in the choir – but one serves God and one serves man.

I’m not against MLM or network marketing – I believe they are great opportunities. I just don’t believe they belong in churches where people are seeking mentorship, discipleship, and community. I’ve only seen one work right – Solovei. The rest – I’ve seen have these issues.

My experience may not be typical of the average participant in this business opportunity. Results may vary.