“Rather than waiting for the inevitable situation where my position would be radically reduced or cut altogether, I simply resigned,” he explained. “I believe in the cause of C3 in the community and in the world. We're on a good wave. The community will be viable and in the black by the end of the year — I'm convinced of that.”
Russell Radford, chairman of the C3 Board of Directors, said this is the latest in a series of moves the “inclusive spiritual community” has taken in an effort to remain financially afloat.
Radford would not disclose Kleinheksel's salary, but said it was a “reasonable amount of money on an annual basis when you take into account salary and benefits.” C3 Executive Minister Ian Lawton said Kleinheksel would receive two months of severance pay.
“Bob has handled this whole thing with the same generosity and class that he's always handled his ministry,” Lawton said. “It was a sacrifice for the good of the (C3) community. It was a very courageous and giving thing for him to do."
In September 2011, the C3 membership moved their operations from the former Christ Community Church, 225 E. Exchange St. in Spring Lake, to the Grand Haven Community Center in an effort to save $15,000 to $17,000 each month on utilities, maintenance and mortgage payments.
Last year, Lawton took a 50 percent cut in pay and gave up benefits in transitioning to a contract employee. Three other staff members have also seen salary reductions, according to Radford. C3's communications and membership director, Malea Nicolet, resigned in June.
“They saw the writing on the wall, or what they thought was the writing on the wall,” Radford said.
Current budget projections show C3 will be about $30,000 in the hole by the end of the current calendar year, according to Radford. Pledges and weekly donations were down 15 to 20 percent in June. The church lost about 50 members — from about 420 to 370 — when it moved from Spring Lake last year.
“It's extremely frustrating for the (C3) community,” Radford said. “Everyone hopes that each cost-cutting measure is going to be the last, that we'll stabilize. That just hasn't proven to be true.”
Radford said Kleinheksel's voluntary resignation might be the financial boost the church needs to turn itself around.
“We're hoping that this time we're in a position to stop the bleeding,” Radford said, adding that the congregation's mood Sunday “was not one of defiance, but one of sorrowful acceptance.”
Kleinheksel said he plans to expand his counseling business, Eutopia Counseling, which specializes in marriage and family issues. He said he still believes in the C3 vision and will remain an active participant, and plans to continue delivering meditations during its Sunday services.
“In the face of continued financial shortfall, the (C3) community is not able to sustain two ministers,” Kleinheksel said. “Sad and unfortunate as it is, I felt it was the right move. ... It was a hard decision, but my mind and heart feel clear and resolved.”
Radford said the C3 community is also on a mission to more clearly define itself and its philosophies in an effort to attract like-minded members.
“This has been a tremendous shock for the community,” he said. “Shocks have a habit of unfreezing minds and attitudes. Already there has been discussion about alternative ways of addressing how we do things. We need to get together and sort out who we are, what we value and how we do things. I'm confident we can do that quickly.”
Lawton said he would be picking up Kleinheksel's community care duties without additional compensation.
Lawton also said the C3 community needs to live within its means, and Kleinheksel's departure should result in that notion.
“I had hoped we would grow more quickly with a new setting,” Lawton said. “We haven't grown fast enough to sustain two ministers. When we left (Spring Lake), we weren't sure how many people would come with us or how much they would give. Setting the first-year budget was a bit like a start-up company — we didn't know what to expect."