Melanie Smollen is a native of
Traverse City, Michigan. She now lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with her
husband, Paul, who is in full-time ministry. They are parents to four amazing
(and very headstrong) kids, two dogs, and a cat.
In 2008 Melanie had an idea to change the way
forward-thinking churches approach hospitality and growth. She
recognized that churches were either stagnating or in decline across the
country, and she set out to use market research to benefit the kingdom. Faith
Perceptions was born, and the Mystery Guest Program was developed, to help
churches improve the Sunday morning experience for first-time
That idea (Mystery Guest Program) has become the largest
firm of its type in the United States. Faith Perceptions sends
multiple “unchurched” people into worship services to evaluate and provide
unbiased feedback on their experience. Melanie and her team use those insights
to help churches understand how people in their mission field perceive their
church as well as how to engage and connect better with future guests. The
Mystery Guest Report is being used by church leaders, coaches, consultants and
Melanie has worked extensively with many different
denominations including United Methodist, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist,
Seventh Day Adventist, Lutheran, and non-denominational churches. She is often
asked to speak and share best practices at conferences and other
venues. Excerpts of Mystery Guest Reports can be found in every issue
When she isn't helping churches grow, she enjoys being a
wife and mama. She appreciates the simple things in life:
quiet time with a cup of coffee and The Word, eating good food (southern
style), and cooking for friends and family. Melanie and her husband volunteer
and support a local faith-based Christian school, Prodigy Leadership
Academy, and Seeds of
Dignity, an outreach effort in Mindanao, Philippines.
Click here to email Melanie.
John McGowan, Principal
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin John received his
undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He
has lived in Sydney, Australia, Denver, CO, and Tucson, AZ prior to relocating
to Cape Girardeau in 2004. John has also studied at the University of Denver's
Strum College of Law and received his Masters of Nonprofit Management from
Following 15 years in executive level
positions in the nonprofit sector, including working for Goodwill and United
Way, John brings his managerial and leadership experience to the firm. As a grant
writer, he successfully obtained funding on Federal, State, and local grant
applications for nonprofit organizations and public university’s
In addition to volunteering as a Big in the
Big Brother’s Big Sisters program, John has been appointed to Cape Girardeau
Public Library Board of Trustees and the Cape Girardeau County Board for the
Developmentally Disabled. He also volunteers for the local NPR station on the
KRCU Advisory Board.
John and his wife Kelley live
in Cape Girardeau with their two dogs and usually a foster dog. They enjoy
volunteering, reading, golfing, bicycling, dining out, and travel.
Click here to email John.
Kelli Foster, Project
Kelli Foster was born in Winona, Minnesota and moved to
Missouri when her father joined the military. She grew up in Devils Elbow,
Missouri and attended Waynesville High School. Kelli moved to Cape Girardeau,
Missouri to attend college at Southeast Missouri State University in 2007 where
she graduated with a Marketing Management degree in 2011 with a minor in
Spanish. She currently lives in Cape Girardeau. In college, she was very
involved with Catholic Campus Ministry, where she served as the Newman Council
President in 2009-2010. She also was involved with the Spanish Club and Delta
Epsilon Chi (a marketing club).
Kelli joined the team as Project Manager in July 2013.
She is a passionate, young professional excited to help churches grow and
prosper. As Project Manager she will be involved in the day to day operations
of the company as well as client and mystery guest
In her free time, she loves
spending time with her family and friends. She also loves to bake, read good
books, and is always trying to stay active. She is very involved at The
Cenacle, a Catholic young adult ministry in Cape Girardeau.
here to email Kelli.
Stephens, Project Coordinator
Kate Stephens was locally born and raised in the Cape
Girardeau area. She is a recent graduate of Southeast Missouri State
University with a degree in Human Resources
With the rapid growth
Perceptions, Kate joined the team in February 2010 to help manage the
mystery guest portion of the endeavor. While others on the team reach out to
new clients and works with church planters, Kate responds to mystery guests'
questions and organizes the church visits.
Kate enjoys staying involved
with her favorite organization, FBLA-PBL. She currently serves as the officer
coach for Missouri's state officers and is the secretary for the state's board
of directors. In her free time, she likes to spend time with family and
friends, read, and bake.
here to email Kate.
Kester, Project Coordinator
Mitchell Kester has lived in and around Cape
Girardeau his entire life. He attended
Southeast Missouri State
University before joining the Missouri Army National Guard
where he spent nearly ten years. In his final four years with the
1140th Engineer Battalion he worked as a Public Affairs Representative and a
Human Resources Assistant. He now works with the Faith
Perceptions support team.
Mitchell provided security at the 2002 Winter Olympics in
Park City, Utah and served for a year at Fort Leonard Wood. He also
assisted in disaster relief operations following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and
Mitchell married Mamie, an electrical engineer for a global
manufacturing company. Mitchell, Mamie, and their two daughters are
active members of their church and enjoy traveling to visit extended
Click here to email