Historians of the Middle Ages usually associate the phrase ‘pastoral care’ with the sacraments and religious services performed by parish priests on behalf of lay people. But late twelfth-century writers primarily attributed pastoral care to prelates. Closely following the tradition of Pope Gregory I's Pastoral Rule, they held that prelates bore the responsibility to govern, guide and (perhaps most importantly) instruct their subordinate clergy or religious. Prelates did this by preaching, and they were supposed to validate their words with the example of their own righteous lives. But although commentators assumed that prelates would be reasonably well educated, late twelfth-century writers did not attribute good preaching to intellectual aptitude, or to the availability of preaching treatises or model sermon collections, as historians often assume. In an age of intellectual vibrancy and flourishing schools, ensuring that prelates instructed their subordinates remained firmly a moral, rather than an educational, question for the English church. Only by instructing subordinates could a prelate ensure their, and by extension his own, eternal salvation: neglect of preaching was tantamount to murder. This article uses the little-studied writings of Alexander of Ashby, Bartholomew of Exeter and Thomas Agnellus to uncover new links between ideas about prelacy, pastoral care and the instruction of subordinates in the high Middle Ages.