For the past two weeks, we have been featuring some of the speakers and panelists of the upcoming UMI Christian Writers Conference that will be held on Friday, April 22-23. Up next is a brief Q&A with Author and UMI’s Vice President of Editorial Dr. LaVerne Tolbert, Ph.D. In addition to being a best-selling author of her book Teaching Like Jesus: A Practical Guide to Christian Education in Your Church, Dr. Tolbert is also a former editor of Family Circle and Bride’s Magazine. Find out more about Dr. Tolbert and her journey to become a successful writer below:
When did you discover that you had a passion for writing?
During my early childhood years, my father required me to read at least 5 books every summer. I loved reading and found that I also loved writing.
Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?
When I was a magazine editor, I focused on writing non-fiction, and today this remains as my preference. I enjoy writing “how-to,” and my classic text, Teaching Like Jesus, explains how to teach.
What are you looking forward to most about the UMI Christian Writers Conference?
I’m looking forward to networking with and meeting new writers who are interested in working for Urban Ministries, Inc.
With so many other genres and styles of writing, how did you make the decision to pursue a career in Christian writing and publishing?
I’m a former professor of Christian education (Talbot School of Theology). Since my masters and doctoral work are in this field, it’s natural for me to also write for a Christian audience.
Do you have one piece of advice that you’d like to share with someone who is interested in pursuing a career in writing?
My advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in writing is this…write! Often, people say they want to write, and they think about writing, but they don’t actually sit down and write. At the conference, I’ll share my easy-to-follow steps for beginning this process.
Dr. Melvin E. Banks is the founder of Urban Ministries, Inc., the largest independent, Christian, African American publishing company in the world.
Dr. Banks began his spiritual journey at a young age. By the age of twelve, the Alabama native was already sharing Bible stories with younger children and traveling with his mentor to remote parts of Birmingham to give his testimony to adults. During one of their trips, Banks recalled an elderly man reciting a verse that Banks would never forget: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This made a great impression on young Banks, and he dedicated himself to God to help bring the knowledge of God’s Word to Black people.
After receiving degrees in theology and biblical studies from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, Banks began working for Scripture Press, Inc., where he specialized in literature distribution for black churches nationwide. However, he discovered that many African Americans were not interested in the biblical curriculum because they did not see themselves represented in it.
In 1970, he founded Urban Ministries, Inc. (UMI). It was a revolutionary concept at the time to portray positive images of African Americans in the biblical experience. During its first 12 years, UMI operated out of the basement of the Banks’ home. In fact, Banks marketed his first Sunday School curriculum, InTeen, to churches out of the trunk of his car. Over the next few decades, his company has grown to serve over 100,000 Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teachers across the country, as well as materials for adult education.
Under the leadership of Dr. Banks, UMI has grown to be the largest independent African American-owned and operated religious publisher. UMI materials include Sunday School curriculum, Vacation Bible School resources, books, videos, music, and, of course, Urban Faith, all of which depict or speak to people of color in the context of their culture.
You can listen to Dr. Banks’ daily podcast, Daily Direction, right here on UrbanFaith.com.