I was recently asked this question by a pastor greatly troubled that he felt he was not being faithful in this command in Hebrews 13:17 for pastors to “watch over souls as one who will give an account.” Knowing the rest of us charged to watch over souls should all possess a bit of uneasiness on this matter, here was my response:
Yes, to some degree, we never care for souls like we desire. However, I think it is possible to care for souls and be faithful to Heb. 13:17, otherwise the writer of Hebrews would not have commanded it. It is much harder to do it in a large church, but I still think it can happen. Here is my basic formula:
For every 100 souls, there must be a full time pastor/elder to watch over them. I have about 100 members and I am the only full time pastor at my church, but I feel like I am able to keep up with what is going on in everyone’s lives and give the attention where it is most needed with the help of other unpaid elders.
In a church of 500 members, you need 5 full time pastors each with the responsiblity of 100 people. This formula can work as I have been on staff at large churches. However, for this to work you can’t have a “Youth pastor, music pastor, discipleship pastor, evangelism pastor, etc.” and accomplish this. The time of all the full time pastors must be committed to public preaching and teaching and tending to souls. Apart from some type of diliberate approach of this nature, I think it is difficult to “Watch over souls” as our Chief Shepherd has commanded.
Continue to be troubled as you are brother. It is a good thing and God uses the burden you feel to make you tenacious in your soul care. Additionally, it will cause you to strive for faithfulness in caring for souls in a way you wouldn’t otherwise.
For further explanation on this formula, see these previous posts: