Founder of Urban Ministries, Inc., recognized for pioneering work in innovating and contextualizing Christian Education materials for the African American market
Colorado Springs, CO., May 4, 2017 – On behalf of the Christian publishing industry, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) presented its inaugural Kenneth N. Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Melvin E. Banks, Sr., founder and chairman of UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.), on May 2nd at the ECPA Awards Celebration in Colorado Springs, among 150 Christian publishing leaders and industry professionals.
Dr. Banks was recognized for his crucial contributions to contextualize the Gospel to the African American community. Recognizing the dominance of Eurocentric images and ideas in Christian publishing, Dr. Banks identified the unique opportunity to serve African Americans and people of African descent with relevant, contextual resources. He founded UMI to further this idea of an African American Christian publishing house that would uniquely serve this audience. Under Dr. Banks’ direction, UMI has grown to be a leading publisher of Christian education and other resources for churches in the African American community and throughout the world.
Mark Taylor, Chairman of Tyndale House Publishers and son of the award’s namesake, presented the award to Dr. Banks on behalf of ECPA. The support of Scripture Press, Zondervan Publishing, Tom Skinner, and Dr. Ken Taylor, Founder and former President/CEO of Tyndale Publishing, helped Banks begin the journey that today is UMI.
“It was a tremendous honor for ECPA to give the Kenneth N. Taylor Award to Dr. Banks,” said Stan Jantz, executive director of ECPA. “UMI filled a critical need that was being overlooked by the Christian publishing community at the time. After 47 years, Dr. Banks and UMI continue to serve the church with outstanding books and resources.”
Dr. Banks was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and at the age of 12 was inspired by a man who quoted Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” God used that verse to lead him to make a commitment that his life should be dedicated to sharing God’s knowledge with God’s people. In 1955, he graduated from Moody Bible Institute and married Olive Perkins. He went on to attend Wheaton College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. He was later awarded an honorary doctorate by Wheaton College and served for many years as a board member of this institution.
Dr. Banks began his career in Christian publishing at Scripture Press, where he conceived the idea of developing uniquely contextual resources for African Americans. With the encouragement of James Lemon, then the company’s VP of Marketing, Dr. Banks set out to found a new company to further this idea of an African American Christian publishing house that would uniquely serve this audience.
UMI was started in 1970 in the basement of his home in Chicago with a publication focused on teens. Dr. Banks, his wife Olive and one editor, Henry Soles, were the original team. Today, from its corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago, UMI has served over 50,000 churches with a product line of curriculum, books, video and many other resources. UMI was innovative in the inclusion of video in Vacation Bible School curriculum in the early 1980s, which has been duplicated by many companies since then. The company’s focus on contextual resources also led to many other publishers becoming more diverse in the reach and content of their product offerings. Churches and denominations throughout the U.S., Europe, and Africa have materials to disciple believers with biblical, culturally relevant publications thanks to Dr. Banks’ obedience to the call of God to fill this void in the Christian publishing world.
Moody Bible Institute recognized Dr. Banks as Alumnus of the Year in 2008 and the History Makers Foundation recognized him in 2004. He has also received many other commendations for his work. Before founding UMI, he founded the Urban Outreach Foundation, which has reached thousands of pastors, lay leaders, and Christian educators through conferences and other resources. Dr. Banks is also one of the founders of Circle Y Ranch, a Christian camp and conference center that has served tens of thousands of urban youth with a summer camping experience and evangelism. He is also a founding elder of Westlawn Gospel Chapel and has been a part of the leadership of this church for more than 60 years. Dr. Banks and his wife Olive live in South Holland, Illinois. The couple has three children.
UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.) is the largest independent religious media and publishing company serving the African American market. Founded in 1970 in Chicago, IL., by Dr. Melvin E. Banks, Sr., UMI creates positive, transformative analog and digital content based on biblical worldview that is especially empowering to the African American community. UMI is a for-profit, Illinois “C” Corporation located in Suburban Chicago with 250+ employees and independent contractors. UMI exists to disseminate culture changing biblically sound content and has tremendous credibility in producing high quality material reaching millions of people throughout the globe. [email protected] @UMIChicago
The Kenneth N. Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a leader from within the Christian publishing profession whose lifetime of achievement goes above and beyond: leading with exemplary Christian character, initiating innovative programs and products, and contributing to the mission and advancement of the Christian publishing industry. ECPA has presented Lifetime Achievement Awards since 1981 to those who have significantly impacted the industry. Recipients listed at ECPA.org/page/lifetime
The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) is an international non-profit trade organization comprised of member companies that are involved in the publishing and distribution of Christian content worldwide. Since 1974, ECPA has strengthened Christian publishing by building networking, information, and advocacy opportunities within the industry and throughout multiple channels so that our members can more effectively produce and deliver transformational Christian content. For more information about ECPA: [email protected] ECPA.org @ECPA