An interview with the founder of the largest African American Christian publishing house.
His name may not be familiar to those outside Christian publishing, but few have impacted the church as much as Melvin E. Banks Sr., the founder and chairman of Urban Ministries Inc. (UMI). On May 2 in Colorado Springs at its annual Leadership Summit, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) presented Banks with the Kenneth N. Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 50 years of excellence, innovation, integrity, and commitment to making the message of Christ more widely known.
Inspired by Hosea 4:6 where God says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge,” he founded UMI in 1970 to create an African American Christian publishing house that would uniquely serve this audience. Today, UMI thrives as the largest African American Christian media and content provider, serving over 50,000 churches with curriculum, books, magazines, Bible studies, videos, teaching resources, and more.
Banks has been recognized with an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, Wheaton College, where he served as a trustee for many years. He has also been honored as a Moody Bible Institute Alumnus of the year and has been recognized for his achievements by many others, including the History Makers Foundation. His innovative use of video in Vacation Bible School has been widely duplicated, and his work has led to many companies becoming more ethnically and racially diverse in the reach and content of their publishing efforts.
Theon Hill, assistant professor of communication at Wheaton College, sat down with Banks at UMI’s headquarters to learn more about his pioneering vision.
What was your background in publishing and media prior to UMI?
I had very little publishing experience prior to my work with UMI. In high …