On Selling Things: Part One

On Selling Things: Part One

Can we talk about selling stuff? Network marketing. Small business. Women's empowerment.

I have been avoiding this because when I am ambiguous there is a better chance you will all like me. But if women are my people then I am not sure how much longer I can avoid this. The reality is there are two kinds of women in the world. Women who are selling stuff and buying stuff from the other women selling stuff and women who are highly annoyed if not outright angry that other women are trying to sell them stuff.

And it seems the closest we have come to dialoguing about this is to post passive aggressive memes at each other. This topic is worth writing about because I think division sneaks in in the oddest of ways. Anytime we as women find ourselves annoyed or thinking "they just don't get it" I believe it is worth taking a second glance there.

In a not surprising turn of events for those of you who know my approach to anything these days, I am here to propose that maybe there is some middle ground we have yet to find. Maybe we don't have to have the "yay buy all the leggings and health products camp" and the "I am blocking every friend who has ever even worn a pair of leggings bought from another woman camp." Maybe network marketing (like most things) is neither inherently good nor bad but rather defined in our approach and heart.

As a minister to and for women, I see an incredible amount of good in the booming business that is network marketing, AND I have concerns about the culture of consumerism we find ourselves in.

So good news first. I love empowered confident women. I ADORE connected women. My heart loves to see women cheer other women on. These things are happening through make-up and protein shakes and essential oils.

I honestly believe these are the driving forces behind so many women becoming involved in this industry. Yes there is the money aspect, but I think that comes in a distant second to the community women are finding in these businesses.

We are hungry to look other women in the eye. To see their potential and to have someone call out ours. To stop competing and comparing and to start championing each other. We want to set goals and meet them, not alone but in community. Celebration is a special kind of sweet in community.

Knowing that someone believes in us and that our success is tied up in another's is how the Kingdom of God is supposed to work. What I've seen with women in my life when they've bought in to their business of choice is a sense that they have purpose, not just as an individual, but as an important part of a group of women that they quickly fall in love with. These women are believing in themselves, cheering on their team and often seeing women they are selling their products to feel better about themselves or enjoy a nice treat.

I think this is the same desire that people fill with CrossFit or Camp Gladiator. "I can do this!" "I am not doing this alone!" "That person is literally cheering me on!"

Network marketing is a women's world. As much as many of us like to say "I just don't get women" or "women just aren't my thing" the truth is that ingrained deep in every women is a desire to lift up other women and be lifted up by them.

If selling face-wash or comfy cotton dresses can be a vehicle for you to remember how beautiful other women are and how better we are together than sell away. Seriously. One of the deepest desires I have for every one of you is that you would know the fruit of deep, rich, consistent community.

I will say here that I believe this ache for community with other women is an indictment on the current state of women's ministry in the church. The fact that it is easier to connect with women over a branded product than it is to gather around the table with women we worship with on Sunday mornings is concerning. When the Church fails, God will provide elsewhere but that doesn't mean we should leave the Church's failing unaddressed.

The Body of Christ should be THE place to connect with other women. The Church should be THE place where we feel empowered, cheered on and equipped. When women are getting more leadership training at the national conference for their product of choice than they are at their local church we need to throw the brakes on and change course. When women spend hours on the phone with women who live hours away from them but don't know their neighbors we have to ask why.

The second wonderful fruit I see in network marketing is the flexibility and freedom it is giving women with both their time and finances. In general I see pushback from younger women when it comes to when and how and how much money we are going to work for. And I LOVE that. I want to believe that most of us cherish people over money. I want to think that we are willing to sacrifice resume building and fancy things if it allows us to be more present with people.

The impetus for me writing this is my good friend Marcy who sells the skincare line Rodan & Fields. As my closest friend involved in network marketing and someone who I deeply respect, Marcy's involvement has forced me to wrestle with this often awkward divisive topic. Do I truly support her or do I think it is silly? Do I see fruit in her life and the lives of others through her business or do I see this as wasteful?

And here is where I have landed. For Marcy Rodan & Fields is one of the ways that God is allowing her to do what she is called to do. Let me explain. First of all, Marcy is married to a Methodist pastor which means that for the foreseeable future she will move every few years. In Marcy's perfect call to be a pastor's wife she has made the sacrifice to call a new city "home" regularly. Because of this, network marketing allows her to build something that can move with her. In the midst of regular change, she has a goal that she has set and believes in that she can build no matter where God calls her and Josh. Good fruit.

Secondly for Marcy is that I know her well enough to know how she is stewarding the income she is receiving from this business. She is not making money to throw around on endless vacations and high-end clothes. Her and Josh live open-handedly and so when someone is purchasing a product from her that money is being stewarded in a God-honoring way.

Lastly, Marcy is stewarding well not only the money that Rodan & Fields gives her but also the time. One of the reasons I could with good conscious recommend you buy a product from Marcy is because when you support her business you are honestly supporting her volunteer work in her community. Because she is not having to work a 40 hour a week rigid job (due in part to her Rodan & Fields income) Marcy has taught gardening classes at a local low-income preschool, volunteers in support of local foster care children and is opening her home to struggling women in the comminity for a hot drink and listening ear. That is what you are supporting when you purchase face-wash from Marcy. For her, Rodan & Fields is way of funding her and Josh's ministry. Good fruit.

So lots and lots of good fruit coming from women starting their own connected small businesses. But my support of network marketing does not come without critique and caution. More on that tomorrow.

Photo credit: Kevin Simmons

On Selling Things: Part Two

On Selling Things: Part Two