JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Copper thieves gutted the air conditioning units at a Westside church just days before the pews will be filled with people on Christmas.

Unfortunately, the only thing the thieves left behind were pieces of the AC units at Deland Missionary Baptist Church -- no tire tracks or other evidence besides a few footprints.

"It's just sad that someone would come and steal from the house of the Lord," Rev. Gerome Thomas said. "That's the saddest part about it."

Copper thefts are on the rise across the country, and churches are often the spots crooks go to make a quick buck, according to Channel 4 Crime Analyst Ken Jefferson.

"They don't get a whole lot of money, but it's easy to trade, it's very easy to get money," he said.

Jefferson said aside from the weekends, churches are seldom occupied, making it an easy target.

Experts have recommended people install burglar bars around the AC units, as well as security cameras and motion-activated lights to help deter thieves.

Despite the thefts, Rev. Thomas said services will go on as planned this Sunday at Deland Missionary Baptist Church and parishioners will still gather and rejoice on Christmas.

"Matter of fact, I think it will make us stronger," Thomas said.