“We don’t usually use the words ministry and tax accounting in the same sentence, but for Carlene Hornby Allen they are the vocabulary of her life. In this issues’ 7 Questions feature, we read her thoughts on building a career on the cornerstones of faith and ministry.”
Carlene Hornby Allen is a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) and partner with KPMG in Vancouver. She is the daughter of a pastor and remembers clearly the moment she decided to follow Christ at seven years of age. She has served on the General Executive of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada since 2006 and is a trustee of the PAOC Pension Plan. Carlene is known for her professional expertise and for her dedication to ministry and non-profit work.
Q 1: What led you to a career in finance?
God directed me here indirectly. I did my undergrad degree in Business (double major in Finance and Psychology) with the intention of going to lLaw sSchool. I wrote my LSAT and was trying to decide which lLaw sSchool to go to. An accountant from our church called me up and said they noticed that I was graduating at the top of my class and hadn’t interviewed with anyone yet. I met with him and their female partner, and they ended up making me an offer. I changed my track and started in the CA program. I knew I would be doing very similar work, and at the time lawyers were working a great deal of overtime. Ministry has always been very important to me, so I wanted to pick a road where I would have ongoing ministry flexibility. The rest is history.
Q 2: Accounting is one skill you don’t hear a lot about in ministry. What kind of ministry opportunities has your professional life presented?
I’ve had the chance to speak about integrity, passion and compassion in the workplace. I’ve been able to serve on boards and in finance positions for various Christian organizations, which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do without my finance experience. I’ve also spoken at women’s conferences and workshops for those who are fiscally challenged and things of that nature.
Q 3: Non-profits and charities are sometimes criticized for the percentage of raised funds that goes to administration or marketing. Is that a fair way for people to assess a non-profit’s financial management, or are there other considerations?
I believe that charitable organizations need to be operated primarily for the benefit of the charity. Unfortunately, you do see a lot of charitable organizations that are not run well. They are collecting people’s money and not spending it well. Although I think things are much more complicated than people realize, you should always expect to see a relatively low administrative fee. If you don’t, then maybe their strategic objectives aren’t being met.
Q 4: With so many organizations and ministries asking for financial support, how, in your opinion, should Christians approach the matter of charitable giving?
I think we are called to tithe, and our tithe goes to the local church. But we’re not just called to tithe. We are also called to give, and I think our giving has to be governed by the way in which God is leading us. We have to prayerfully consider where our gifts go.
We also need to do appropriate research. We’re called to be good stewards of the assets God has given us. So it’s important to check things like tax returns and financial statements before you make a big commitment to a charitable organization. Make sure, number one, that their principles are in accord with yours and, number two, that they’re being run in a fiscally responsible manner.
Q 5: You have been, and still are, involved in many ministries and organizations. Which one is closest to your heart and why?
I don’t know if I could pick just one. I’m very passionate about reaching those who don’t know the Lord, as well as reaching out to the less fortunate in our society. My ideal goal is to have the combined ability to be involved strategically—because that’s what my background and qualifications are suited for—and also be involved hands on. I don’t want to be in an ivory tower making decisions. I want to understand what people are facing from day to day.
Q 6: How does your faith influence how you do your work?
First of all, I’m always going to do my work with integrity. Secondly, the way I interact with people needs to be Christ based. That in itself can lead to changes in policies and procedures in the workplace.
For example, when I first started at the firm, we had a large drinking event every Friday. I didn’t drink, but I made sure I attended because you’re supposed to be in the world, not of the world. As a joke, people brought me a can of Coke so I had something to hold in my hand. Next thing I knew, of the four tubs of alcohol, one tub was changed to non-alcoholic because there were other people who didn’t want to drink either. They just needed someone to set an example.
I think you need people with strong Christian principles in every work environment in order to help set godly standards and principles.
Q 7: What advice would you give those just starting out in a new job or career?
The first thing is to have your spiritual priorities in place. When you start a new job or career, there are often a lot of demands on your time. You need to make your commitments to ministry and to the faith cornerstones in your life, then build your work around them. Otherwise, work will consume you. If you think in five years you’ll go back and get involved in ministry, it will never happen. You have to set those principles and practices in place to start with. When you build your career and your life on godly principles, God will open doors that you never expected.
Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning journalist. She writes exclusively for the Canadian faith-based community. You can find her on Facebook or on her blog at www.lisahallwilson.com.
This article appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.