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 guests.
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 revitalization experts.
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 of Outreach Magazine.
Since inception, Faith Perceptions has evaluated over 4,000 worship services nationwide. Melanie also leads a team that supports over 10,000 mystery guests in 49 states.
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.
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Kelli Foster, Project Manager
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 relations.
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.
Click here to email Kelli.
Kate Stephens, Project Coordinator
Kate Stephens was locally born and raised in the Cape Girardeau area. She is currently a full-time student with a part-time job, working on her Human Resources Management degree at Southeast Missouri State University.
With the rapid growth of Faith 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 being involved at the University as a part of the leadership team for Catholic Campus Ministry and serves as the community service chair of the University's chapter of FBLA-PBL. She has also completed the Emerging Leaders program at Southeast. In her free time, you can usually find her studying and doing homework.
Click here to email Kate.
Mitchell 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 Gustav.
In 2007, 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 family.
Click here to email Mitchell.
Kaylyn Kinder, Project Coordinator
from the Bootheel area of Missouri, Kaylyn moved to Cape Girardeau to
attend Southeast Missouri State University where she graduated with a
Bachelor of Music degree in 2009. At Southeast, she was active in the
Opera-Theatre workshop, the Southeast Missouri Music Academy, and the
Southeast Chamber and University Choirs.
After obtaining her master’s degree in Music History and Literature
from the University of Louisville, Kaylyn returned to Cape Girardeau and
joined our team in September 2013. In addition to working as our office
manager, Kaylyn teaches vocal lessons to area students at the Southeast
Missouri Music Academy and works on various music projects as a
performer, editor, writer, or researcher.
Kaylyn’s hobbies include reading, spending time with friends, watching
sports (especially NCAA basketball), and outdoor activities.
Click here to email Kaylyn.