A missionary circle is an organization found primarily in evangelical churches that focuses on social service and supporting the church. Most missionary circles are composed of women of the highest church standing who want to be part of the spiritual leadership of their churches.
The duties of a missionary circle vary, but they always involve ensuring the mission of the church as a whole is carried out. This might involve caring for the homeless, running youth organizations or running church business as volunteers. While most missionary circle work is done at home, in some cases, those involved provide a pool of potential foreign missionaries for church work abroad.
Missionary circles were originally subscription clubs who banded together to support the work of a foreign missionary. They provided an outlet for the often frustrated energy of female church members who were historically barred from participating in the active leadership and ministry of a church, but who were also unable to become foreign missionaries themselves due to family obligations.
Women's circles or missionary circles often showed up in historical American literature. Perhaps the most notable example of this is Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle in the book "To Kill A Mockingbird," in which the words of the ladies in the circle are contrasted unfavorably with their purported mission in order to highlight their blind hypocrisy.