Dec. 22, 2010 -- A group of friends gathered in cozy living room on a Friday night -- it may have looked like a social gathering, but it was actually a church service.
For the last year and a half, Robert Sheridan, his wife and son have hosted church services in their modest home in the Bronx. They are among a growing number of families who choose to worship outside a typical brick and mortar church.
Sheridan said he began attending this type of "home church" a few years ago when he was exploring alternatives to traditional churches.
"After awhile, it seems natural and the right thing to do to host myself," he said.
Jared Looney, the leader of the church that meets in Sheridan's home, is also involved with a network of like-minded home churches in New York City and New Jersey.
Like Sheridan, he is raising his young child -- 5-year-old Adalia -- to worship God in a much smaller, more intimate setting.
"When you're meeting in a small community like this ... it really allows you, in a way it nudges you, towards focusing on the basics of the Christian faith," he said, " because there's really not a lot extra."
According to a study done last year by the Pew Forum, 7 percent of Americans surveyed say they worship in someone's home, including 9 percent of Protestants and 4 percent of Catholics. Other Protestants in the Pew survey said they worship in places like restaurants, hotels, schools or campgrounds.
For Sheridan and Looney, they said it's less about where they meet and more about their small, close-knit community. The unnamed church that meets at Looney's house has 12 to 15 members.
The weekly Friday services usually start with a small social hour, followed by a meal together. The group then sings, prays and holds a Bible discussion and a simple communion.
In all, they said, the service typically lasts about three hours.
"It's just your relationships with each other," Looney said, "and your service to your neighbor."