As parish leaders, we spend a lot of time in the parish, whether that be running a class, leading a small-group, planning events, or attending Mass and visiting Christ in the Eucharist. As Catholics, our parish is a second home, and as leaders, our role includes helping others to see the parish as their home.

One way we can achieve this is to actually step outside of the parish walls and open your own home’s doors to your community. Hosting a small-group in your living room or inviting your class attendees to dinner can help build more authentic and lasting relationships with those individuals. And that is what makes a place feel like home: the relationships built there. Jesus said: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35). He calls us to familial relationships with one another. Just as our parish is our second home and our priest is our spiritual father, our fellow parishioners should be extensions of our families. Evangelization is merely loving our family, and welcoming new brothers and sisters into the family fold.

The idea of opening our homes, however, can sometimes seem daunting or unattractive.

About a month ago a friend who serves as a missionary during the school year asked if she could stay at our house for a week during the summer. In my ninth month of pregnancy, with the requested dates falling just two weeks from my due date, I felt very inclined to say “no” and had a whole slew of excuses ready—I wanted that time set aside for last preparations for the baby and bonding time with my husband, I’d likely be inattentive and emotional, and I definitely didn’t want to spend extra time cleaning and making the house presentable for a guest. But I heard the Lord’s voice gently prompting me to reconsider.

After consulting with my husband, we agreed we should invite this friend to stay and, even though it was a busy, unique time for my family, we felt greater peace with this decision. Our homes, our families, and our messy family lives are not meant to stay behind closed doors, untouched by our neighbors and the outside world except when the floors have been vacuumed and a fresh coat of Pledge covers every surface.

The reality is, authentic relationships with those in our parish family are formed when we share life, when we let others be privy to the daily grind and joys of our vocations. My friend felt honored to be with my husband and I during that time of transition for my family, to help us ready our home and finish the nursery for our firstborn, and we became closer friends because of her stay.

Stepping outside of the parish walls and hosting your small group or ministry in your home can open the door to greater fellowship, and can actually help others to view their parish as a cherished second home. Here are three reasons you should consider this option:

1. You can attract a new cohort of people.

Some, especially those who are new to the parish or not yet “sold” on the faith, may feel more comfortable attending a get-together or dinner in a home setting rather than in the parish hall or classroom. No matter where a person is in their faith journey, all people yearn for friendship, and they may see greater potential for building friendships at a  faith-based gathering in the home than a class or study in a public place.

2. You get to live out your vocation to the fullest.

The core of every individual vocation is love. Love, by its very nature, must be shared. Just as God, who is Love, created man in order to invite him into the fold of the love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so families and individuals are called by nature to invite others into the fold of their vocation. While I felt that inviting my friend to stay would take away from my family, it was in reality the exact opportunity we needed to live out family life as God intends.

3. You will draw people to the parish.

A meeting in the home is not meant to be just a social gathering to make people feel more comfortable before diving into the truths of the Catholic faith. Faith should pour naturally throughout every nook and cranny of our lives and be just as tangibly present in the home as in the parish. Host a study on the Sacraments or Scripture in your home, and those who experience this will be irresistibly drawn through the parish doors where the Sacraments are made available and the Word is made flesh.