As associate pastor for evangelism, I work to welcome new people into a large urban congregation. As I delve into the complexities of outreach in this postmodern age, I find that some of the most interesting conversations happen when I’m speaking to people who work in marketing.

Marketing attempts to connect individuals or communities with a product through branding. I talked with a professional who once helped market Gatorade, a brand that most of us know. I was surprised to hear that Gatorade marketers consider tap water to be part of the competition. Then I realized that their concern made absolute sense. Tap water is natural, it hydrates the body, is healthy and low in calories, and it is free. Tap water is an alternative to any sports drink.

I often hear about new or creative strategies for growing the church. Every once in a while a church embarks on an outreach campaign that strikes a chord in the surrounding community—and all of us other churchpeople scurry to figure out what’s going on. This is doubly true if the persons reached are younger than 40.