The theft of more than $20,000 worth of instruments and sound equipment is a blow to a Manurewa church's mission to turn around South Auckland's troubled youth.
The robbery occurred at Manurewa Congregational Christian Church between 12.30pm and dawn on Monday but the break-in was not discovered until Tuesday night's church meeting.
Church treasurer Tanu Tautala said some of the older women discovered the lock on the gate had been cut.
The thieves forced entry through a window and removed guitars, amps, a mixer and crossover used for services and by the church's youth band, the Lyrical Saints.
Crime scene attendant Guy McDuffie said the burglary appeared to be professional and the thieves would have known what they were after.
The scene has been fingerprinted and two footprints found on the window sill are being examined.
"They took the lot," said Mr Tautala.
"The kids have been working so hard fundraising for the equipment. Some of them were so sad and crying."
The gear was bought with funds raised by bingo, raffles, sausage sizzles and carwashes.
The church had a six-year mission to help South Auckland youth and to "change the cycle of the way they live", said Mr Tautala.
The church's focus on troubled youth is the impetus behind the band, which provides positive role models in the community.
Mr Tautala said the Lyrical Saints had used the equipment for the first time at a Sunday night service called "A night to remember".
Youth leader Sina Ene said, "We had a beautiful night and the kids had been practising so it would be a night to remember."
Fei Tapaleao who is married to the church minister, said, "The kids feel responsible for the equipment.
"Things do happen, especially nowadays and especially in our area."
The church runs various programmes including guitar lessons and a twice-weekly homework centre which provides support for up to 40 schoolchildren.