Hannah Fent left Bay City as a young adult, but came home for love of family and community

Hannah Fent is the Lead Associate Pastor and Youth Pastor at Bay Valley Christian Church, 2535 Wilder Road. Hannah grew up in Bay City, graduating from Bay City Central High School in 2008 and later earning an Associate's Degree in Theology from Bible College. Hannah enjoys the creative arts, and in addition to working at the church, has started her own art and design business in the area as well. At 30 years old, Hannah lives in Bay City with her husband and stepdaughter, sharing her experiences and passions with the church’s youth.

Q. What kept you in this community?

A.  It's obviously my home and I’ve always had a heart for family. After I graduated, I moved out to California and moved around working with different ministries and non-profit organizations. Traveling as much as I did, I got more insight into things that, I thought, could benefit my hometown. I had a learning disability growing up and there were a lot of things that I felt could have been better to help with my learning. There are different, creative ways to help the youth understand things. Not just academically, but in life. How to develop so that they never feel like they don’t measure up. Being able to be a part of those things in different areas inspired me to bring what I learned back home and see how I can implement that here.

Q. Tell me about the church. What do you do there?

A. I serve as the Lead Associate Pastor and Youth Pastor here. My dad (the Rev. David Ferranti) started the church when I was only a year old, so I've been here my whole life and I've served in every capacity here, but my heart is definitely for youth. I work with junior high and high school students, just creating a community for that age group. We offer a dance team, a youth band, and different things for them to be a part of, as well as tutoring and skill development.

Q. How does working with the youth invigorate you?

A. The Bible talks about having childlike faith. Part of that is being able to see things the way God sees them. And the way God sees them is in its purest form. Many times, we become adults and become jaded by the things that we've experienced and we can begin to see things through a lens or filter of our own hurt. Being able to see things differently, to look at life in such a pure, innocent, way is infectious from our youth. All through high school and college, you hear about being the change you wish to see in the world. But somewhere along the way, that gets lost and you become a cog in the wheel. Yet no matter what age you are, God can use you to be that change in the world even today. That mindset doesn't have to go away. Being surrounded by youth has been a blessing to me to always keep my mindset that way.

Q. When COVID-19 first hit, how did it impact the church?

A. Typically, church is a Sunday morning where you come, worship, listen to a message, and go home. That's church in a lot of people's minds. So what do you do when you can't gather? It’s discouraging because being a church and sharing the love of Christ, is relational, but it challenged us to lead differently. We began streaming live services, but for our youth ministry we did small groups online and had zoom sessions where students talked about different topics. It allowed them to really open it up for discussion and talk through things. Church isn't just about speaking at people or teaching at people, it's bringing them along with you and having discussions together. We just had to do it differently.

Q. What does the church look like now in our post-COVID-19 world?

A. There's a statistic that 40% of congregations haven't been back yet, which is understandable, especially with the elderly in congregations and those that already battle with health issues. But they're watching online and we're still doing our best to give them care, even if it's just calling and touching base with them. We’re providing options for people. We're staying up to date on the guidelines we have to follow, but outside of that we're leaving it up to people and their comfortability. If they don't feel comfortable visiting, they can still watch from the comfort of their own home.

Q. What changes have you seen or experienced in this last year?

A. Before COVID, because of the saturation of social media and things going on, a lot of teenagers were really becoming introverted. I didn't grow up in a social media world. When I came home from school, I got to shut off the bullying. Kids today don't get a break from that. If they're getting bullied at school, they come home and get bullied online. I found more and more that teenagers were becoming more introverted and becoming more anxious. When COVID hit, we began communicating more online and through social media. Their social media feeds started to change a little bit and became more positive because we were engaging with them in a different way. I think they began to realize that they do need that in-person interaction and crave that relationship with people. Their longing to be a part of something and build relationships was so strong that all that negativity they kind of just put on the back burner – it's become like this re-set of needing to be involved and be a part of something and that's been the most exciting thing.

Q. What are your hopes for the church in the years ahead?

A. I'm just all about finding new ways to reach people. All through our summers, we do ministry called Be the Church, which is our community outreach. It’s literally going out and partnering with organizations and neighborhoods and simply loving on people. We've partnered with Habitat for Humanity and helped fix up homes in the area, as well. Instead of waiting for them to come to us, we want to go to where the people are.