Someone You Should Know: Melvin E. Banks

Someone You Should Know: Melvin E. Banks

Dr Banks1 1Dr. 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